Abhishek Bachchan puts together a team of experts who help him in executing a daring gold heist in Russia. However, after they capture the gold, one of them turns against the others. What happens next? Find out in the full review of Players.
Business rating: 1 / 5 star
Star cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Bobby Deol, Bipasha Basu, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Sonam Kapoor, Sikander Kher, Omi Vaidya, Vinod Khanna.
What’s Good: The train robbery sequence; some comedy in the second half; Omi Vaidya and Neil Nitin Mukesh’s acting.
What’s Bad: The loose and uninteresting screenplay; the poor music; the dull acting of Abhishek, Sonam and Bobby.
Verdict: All that glitters is not gold. This gold rush adventure will not see people rushing to the cinemas.
Loo break: Several, especially after interval.
Watch or Not?: Watch it for the stylised shooting.
(Spoiler alert! You may want to skip directly to the ‘Script Analysis’ portion of the review.)
Viacom 18 Motion Pictures and Burmawala Brothers’ Players (UA), the official remake of the Hollywood film, The Italian Job, is about a gold heist adventure. Charlie Mascarenhas (Abhishek Bachchan), a chartered accountant by profession, learns from a DVD he receives from Shehla, the widow of his deceased friend, Raj (Aftab Shivdasani in a friendly appearance), that gold worth Rs. 10,000 crore is going to be transported from Russia to Romania in a train. He approaches Victor Dada (Vinod Khanna), who is serving a jail sentence, and seeks his help in putting together a team to rob the gold.
Victor Dada introduces Charlie to a group of people with varied skills: Ronnie (Bobby Deol) is a magician and illusionist; Sunny Mehra (Omi Vaidya) is a makeup and prosthetics artiste; Bilal Basheer (Sikander Kher) is an explosives expert; and Rhea (Bipasha Basu), an automobile expert who also doubles up as a seductress. Spider (Neil Nitin Mukesh), an expert computer hacker, is the only missing block since he is untraceable. Naina (Sonam Kapoor), daughter of Victor Dada and friend of Charlie, is herself a hacker, and she tracks down Spider, thereby helping Charlie and his group to establish contact with him (Spider). However, Naina is the only one who doesn’t know of the proposed gold robbery. In fact, her dad has broken the promise he had made to her about never again indulging in criminal activities, just so that he can make enough money in this one last act, to build an orphanage and school for the orphans.
Spider plays hard to get but he ultimately comes around. Detailed plans are made to execute the train robbery. Rhea seduces a Russian official and drugs him so that Sunny can make a mask to resemble his face. On the appointed day, the Russian official is drugged by Sunny. Charlie impersonates the official, thanks to the mask. By then, Rhea has readied another train to match the speed of the train carrying the gold bars. Spider is hacking into the site of the Russians to crash it for ten minutes during which the gold bars have to be transferred from the train carrying them to the train in which Charlie’s team is travelling. Ronnie creates an illusion so that the guards travelling in the train with the gold can’t see the train running alongside their own train.
Everything works according to clockwork precision including the code to open the train compartment carrying the gold bars, which has been obtained by secretly and strategically placing a camera. But things go wrong in the last few minutes. However, Charlie and his team still manage to steal the gold.
There is a hitch though. One of the team members betrays the rest of the team and makes away with all the stolen gold bars. In doing so, s/he kills Victor Dada and the other team members – or so s/he thinks. Most of the team members actually survive and re-surface after a year to reclaim the gold. What happens then? Does the betrayer have the gold? Where is s/he and where is the gold? Do the other team members succeed in laying their hands on the gold?
Players Review: Script Analysis
A thriller like Players could have worked only if it were made as a fast-paced and stylish film. While this film is stylish, it is anything but fast-moving and, therefore, gives the audience so much time to think that it fails and falls flat on its face. It is for this very reason – giving the viewers time to think – that the entire train robbery sequence and the latter part look fake and unbelievable. Charlie and his team get to know every detail of the train journey so easily and are able to carry out their plan so meticulously and effortlessly that the audience starts questioning the security arrangements made to transport so much gold.
There have been earlier films, too, in which major crimes have been committed to clockwork precision but if one hasn’t questioned them, it is because the audience did not get the time to think of the loopholes while watching them. In this case, the pace is so slow and the drama, so half-baked that tens of questions crop up in the viewer’s mind for which the story and screenplay writers offer either no logical answers or half-baked answers.
Screenplay writers Rohit Jugraj and Sudip Sharma have written a script of absolute convenience, which the intelligent audience of today will find hard to digest. At least one team member oscillates between the betrayer and the betrayed and why s/he does so is not clear. When the intention of that member becomes clear towards the end, the audience is left wondering why that member behaved the way s/he did and why s/he did not come clean in the beginning itself. How the betrayed traces the betrayer, how the team gains entry into the betrayer’s citadel so easily, how the team works thereafter and how the betrayer falls prey to the team when they succeed in locating him/ her, all these have been sought to be explained as becoming possible through technology and computers. But it is anybody’s guess that the viewer is not going to accept these merely because it appears to be possible because of technology. Of course, the writers have taken care to explain things in a very basic manner so that even those who are not computer-literate or technology-savvy can understand the progression of the drama but that’s about it. For, even though the viewers (literate or illiterate) would be able to follow the drama, they may not necessarily go with it.
All in all, while the story is interesting, the screenplay botches the attempt so badly that the film turns out to be a boring fare. On top of it, the drama is so long-drawn that it tests the audience’s patience, especially in the second half. Probably, the worst part of the drama is that the key players are so laid-back in their approach that they should never have been successful, yet success comes knocking at their door always. Also, the audience’s sympathy goes to no character in the film, because of which the viewer remains an outsider and never ever gets involved with the drama. Dialogues, also penned by Rohit Jugraj and Sudip Sharma, lack the fire and the thrill.
This is not to say that there aren’t any plus points in the film. The train robbery sequence, for one, is quite nice and has also been shot well. The track of Johny Lever in the post-interval portion is interesting because of the Hindi and very Indian dialogues mouthed by his foreigner-wife, his twin sons and the foreigner servant.
The climax is not half as exciting as it ought to have been. Also, the film lacks romance because although there are two girls and five guys, the script doesn’t allow the romantic track to really come through. In fact, why the writers have shied away from clearly telling who Charlie is fond of – Rhea or Naina – is not clear. Even comedy is lacking in the film. The drama, as mentioned above, is rather boring. Emotions completely fail to touch the heart. Music, which could have been another important pillar of the star-cast thriller, is a minus point in the film.
Players Review: Star Performances
Coming to the performances, it must be mentioned that several of the lead players have spoken their dialogues in a flat manner and with much the same expressions throughout the drama. Abhishek Bachchan and Bobby Deol, especially, seem to be under the mistaken belief that uttering dialogues in a very sober and serious way, with absolutely no smile or emotion on the face, is akin to good acting. But it only makes them look limited as actors. Abhishek Bachchan fails to make an impression, least of all as a team leader. His expressions hardly change and his acting is ordinary. His dialogue delivery leaves something to be desired. Bobby Deol gets limited scope and is routine in what he does. Again, voice modulation and body language are as good as missing in his acting. Bipasha Basu looks sexy and does an okay job. Sonam Kapoor is dull. Her scenes give the impression that she was in a hurry throughout the making of the film. Neil Nitin Mukesh is quite effective. He is at least earnest about what he does. Omi Vaidya goes through his role with sincerity. He evokes laughter at some places. His acting is probably the best in the film. Sikander Kher needs to loosen up. His acting is barely average. Vinod Khanna hardly makes his mark. His voice gives the impression that he is very tired now. Johny Lever entertains in two roles. Aftab Shivdasani is alright in a friendly appearance.
Players Review: Direction & Music
Abbas-Mustan fail to deliver as directors. Their choice of subject for the actors they’ve chosen and, more importantly, their acceptance of the screenplay is shocking. No doubt, they have given the film a huge canvas and wonderful gloss but what’s lacking in the body beautiful is the soul. Their narration is loose and it fails to hold the audience’s interest. But it must be said, their shot takings are very stylised. If the writers have let down the director-duo, so has the music director. Pritam Chakraborty’s music is a major minus point of the film. The songs are dull. The absence of hit music is sorely felt, especially because the cast is youthful. Even the choreography (Bosco-Caesar and Raju Khan) is commonplace. Lyrics (Ashish Pandit) are ordinary. Sandeep Shirodkar’s background music should’ve been better and more forceful. Ravi Yadav’s camerawork deserves distinction marks. He has captured the foreign locales beautifully. His work in the train robbery sequence and the aerial shots is especially noteworthy. Allan Amin’s stunts are good but a negative point is that they lack novelty. Hussain Burmawala’s editing is sharp. Technically, of a good standard. Production values are grand. Sets are very appropriate.
Players Review: Komal Nahta’s Verdict
On the whole, Players will play a losing game at the box-office. Given the huge investment (of Rs. 65-70 crore) made in the film, it will end up entailing heavy losses to the producers as well as distributors. Its dull start will only add to its tale of woes.
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Players Video Review by Komal Nahta
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