<Review by: Tushar A Amin>
Directed by Sriram Raghavan. Starring Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Ram Kapoor.
A Saif Ali Khan film with all the style but no humour (despite the Vinod in the name). A Sriram Raghavan film that has all the hooks but no grip. That is Agent Vinod for you: a film that goes all over the place (literally and figuratively) but misses the point.
In the tried and tested Hollywood tradition, Agent Vinod (Saif Ali Khan) carries the burden of saving the world from a nuclear threat. The screenplay has him stringing clues as he dashes across dazzling locales like Afghanistan, Russia, Tangiers, London, Sri Lanka and finally saddi Dilli. The cinematography is spectacular but the ease with which things fall in place for Agent Vinod ends up projecting it more as Travel Agent Vinod.
This film can also boast of some of the most dazzling action sequences – be it the rugged jeep chase in the Afghan desert, car chases, bike stunts or the hand-to-hand combat in a Sri Lankan brothel (watch out for Puja Ladha Surti’s inspired editing in this sequence). The shoot-out sequence with Raabta playing in the background is another inspired choice but after Shaitan sequence and this one, I would recommend, filmmakers refrain from slo-mo action-choreography set to songs for the next couple of years.
While Saif Ali Khan looks and plays the part with finesse, the screenplay and dialogue fail to exploit his charm and wit. There are a couple of lines that rouse laughter but they are too few and too scattered to make up for the overall lack of humour in the film. Agent Vinod is also straddled with a rather poorly written character of Iram Bilal (Kareena Kapoor). In a bid to show her as ‘good-at-heart’, the writing has robbed her off all the cattiness and chutzpah one expects a girl spy to have. Her lost-little-girl act is a bit naïve and unwarranted in such a film. Kareena is capable of much more and is wasted in this film.
The supporting cast ranges from laugh-out-loud ridiculous (telly series C.I.D. maker BP Singh) to just right (Ram Kapoor). Prem Chopra is a delight to watch, though. And Sriram Raghavan does with his character what he did with Dharmendra in Johnny Gaddaar.
Sriram Raghavan does weave in his trademark homages to masala potboilers of the 70s-80s and the original Agent Vinod but the film gives a distinct impression that he was not completely in control of the end product. The film tries hard to weave a complicated yarn but is let down by the inane predictability of the proceedings. If one really wants to explore the global conspiracy theory angle, one has to commit to it. In the case of Agent Vinod, this just seems to be case of getting carried away by Saif’s fascination with this theory (even the name of his production company is Illuminati). The film is overwritten and the final revelation seems too forced and affected.
There’s many a slip between the script and the screen. And this is evident in Sriram Raghavan’s third directorial venture. Having delivered taut thrillers like Ek Haseena Thi and Johnny Gaddaar, you would expect a gripping thriller when Raghavan teams up with the uber-suave Saif Ali Khan for a spy flick. Agent Vinod, however, fails to capitalise on their strengths and what we get is an overdrawn string of spy-film clichés executed stylishly but lacking sophistication (and did I mention, humour). It may be one of the most stylish Bollywood spy-thriller (and you can watch it just for that) but Agent Vinod fails to deliver on the Indian James Bond promise.