Kangana Ranaut ticks off all the boxes of the poker-faced spy model in Dhakaad, observes Sukanya Verma, but the the movie needs real rescuing.
Dhaakad is a showreel for Kangana Ranaut's action heroine skills. Like all her post-Queen projects, she dominates nearly every one of its photogenic frames, flaunting her swift moves and desire to load a gun.
Like all get-up ready, gizmo equipped, die-hard Hollywood agents, spies and commandos all rolled in one, her Agni dedicatedly dives into one action-packed venue after another all the way from Budapest to Bhopal.
Debutant director Razneesh Ghai's terribly second-hand, tediously bleak take on the girls with guns genre has a voracious appetite for violence, but does not know how to make all the blood count for something. You can gauge its intelligence quotient in dialogues like "Main jism nahi bechti, jism se rooh alag karna business hai mera."
What excites Dhaakad more is cosmetic imagery and hollow posturing.
There's a villain's origins flashback shot in slickest shades of black and white designed to unsettle the viewer with its oversupply of sliced flesh.
Its opening shot (DoP Tetsuo Nagata) lingers on Agni's curvy frame standing against a European window in black lingerie and blunt bob. Cut to her boss barking orders, 'Dragonfly, this is ringmaster tumhare paas teen minute hai.' Before one has the chance to feel mildly amused over those words, she's already gone from a machine gun blasting soldier to katana wielding samurai to throat slashing ninja.
A trained human weapon haunted by ghosts of her traumatic childhood, Agni shows no signs of life or libido. But when her superior (Saswata Chatterjee) assigns her the task of taking on "Asia ke sabse bade human trafficking ring," she embarks on Dhaakad's two hours video game challenge with the enthusiasm of a deadpan zombie.
As if overcompensating for Agni's lack of emotion, antagonist duo Rudraveer (Arjun Rampal) and Rohini (Divya Dutta), at the helm of the aforementioned racket, go hammer and tongs to make their presence felt.
Ghai's comic book sensibilities spill over the script's 'anything goes' fictional setting, which explains Rudraveer's lair operating within a coal field where he's brainwashed and builds an army of fundamentalists by spouting some claptrap about human rights. The man's got a fancy hideout in Hungary too.
If Rudraveer's an enigmatic creep lurking in the shadows accompanied by the howls of wolves in India, he turns into a Russian style mafioso sporting platinum hair and fur collared coats flanked by henchwomen who dress up like Zena, the warrior princess in Hungary. What's more bizarre is Rudraveer's obsession with a lousy lullaby that gets unnecessary screen time.
Arjun Rampal looks gruesome and speaks in a strange Bihari accent, but his theatrical ferocity offers a welcome relief from Dhaakad's monotonous action. As his bawdy partner and brutal brain behind girl trafficking, Divya Dutta keeps it loud and splashy.
Meanwhile, Kangana Ranaut ticks off all the boxes of the poker-faced spy model, which means she's either slipping into a series of disguises (a curly haired correspondent with a phony foreign accent, a hijab-wearing tailor in garish prosthetics, a blonde cabaret dancer) or unleashing her fury on the bad guys in the quintessential action heroine uniform -- super tight skinny jeans and tank tops.
Lest she comes across looking like a total cyborg, a colleague's (a wasted Sharib Hashmi) kid is tossed in the picture for her to play saviour to. But it's the movie that needs real rescuing and Dhaakad just doesn't cut it.