This enjoyable high-octane action spy movie from India is possibly the most fun you can currently have at the cinema – for the first two hours of its running time at least. At the packed London cinema where I watched it on opening night, the crowd erupted with whoops the moment Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan appeared on screen – face battered to a pulp, gazing up through a bloody swollen half-shut eye.
The film is the latest instalment in the YRF Spy Universe: Khan is Pathaan, a James Bond-ish spy brought out of retirement to take down an international terror organisation known as Outfit X. Its leader is another former Indian spy, Jim (John Abraham), who’s gone rogue, committing atrocities for the likes of Boko Haram and Islamic State in return for cash. Now Jim has got his hands on a biological weapon of mass destruction.
The increasingly daft plot pings around the globe like a Bond or Mission: Impossible. Khan delivers a performance with perfect levels of fun, and light on Bond-ish psychological flaws, playing it instead with a wink here, a joke there. (There’s a very funny line about him going to the hairdressers to get a blow dry.) Saying that, Khan clearly takes his training seriously; he’s impossibly ripped, and his personal trainer probably deserves to share his credits and a chunk of his fee here.
The film sags a little towards the end, with a few too many implausible action sequences: characters jumping out of helicopters and fighting on top of speeding SUVs, the choreography glossing over the basics of gravity and physics. Still, the cheers kept coming: the loudest whoop of all when Salman Khan made an entrance as Tiger, a hero from an earlier movie in the series.
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