Starring Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor. In Hindi with English subtitles. Rated PG. Now playing
From the first glance of the opening sequence of Agent Vinod, you can smell the launch of a new movie franchise. It sets out to be a stylish spy film with a hero that can both shoot and woo for national honour. What we actually get is a fantasy of metrosexual masculinity in which the incalculable violence barely creases the tailored shirts.
Saif Ali Khan is the title character who, in his capacity as an Indian RAW agent (think CIA), spans the globe, chasing down terrorists and foiling their plots for nuclear warfare. The film begins in Afghanistan and moves through as many capitals as there are costume changes. At a stop in Morocco, Vinod meets Ruby (Kareena Kapoor), a doctor who may or may not be an ally working for Pakistan’s ISI. Ruby seems quite adept on her own, but she is keen to be rescued when Vinod is in the frame.
The target of their search is an unknown object, “242”, which is coveted by multiple terrorist groups. They don’t know what it is precisely, but they know they don’t want the bad guys to get it. There are countless twists and numerous players in this film, many of whom fall before their presence can even be registered.
There is an attempt at real political content here, but it is at the intellectual level of the average Sylvester Stallone movie. The middle section drags, and there is a full hour in this film that could easily be edited out. The chemistry between Khan and Kapoor (who are the Brangelina of Bollywood) is scarcely discernable.
This genre hinges on the suave desirability of the male lead. Here, it fails, in part because Khan’s emotional range runs the gamut between stoicism and a smirk. This is not as sexy as he thinks it is.