The Shaukeens ** 1/2
Dir: Abhishek Sharma
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Annu Kapoor, Piyush Mishra, Lisa Haydon, Rati Agnihotri
Abhishek Sharma (Tere Bin Laden) directs this update of Basu Chatterjee’s 1982 charmer Shaukeen, a comedy about three men in their sixties, yearning to regain their lost youth, and constantly ogling younger women. Married Laali (Anupam Kher), widowed Pinky (Piyush Mishra) and single KD (Annu Kapoor) are the lecherous trio and off they traipse to lovely Mauritius for what they hope will be the sex-capade of a lifetime. Once at their destination they find themselves all in lust with ditsy earth-child, Ahana (Lisa Haydon) and competing for her attentions.
This main plot is only occasionally funny, if crassly so. The characters are underwritten and Lisa Haydon (who made such an impact in Queen) is particularly hard done-by with a role which does nothing for her except allow the camera to pan her long legs and bikini clad body. For a sex comedy, that may be par for the course but the actress should have also been given some good comedic material to work with. Even her ditsiness is more irritating than alluring. The three shaukeens are perhaps even less well served considering their talents (Piyush Mishra, actually playing much older than his age, is less well known than his two co-stars but he is really a terrific actor) and I really would have liked to have seen more of Rati Agnihotri (she was the object of affection in the original) and her relationship with her husband, Laali. That’s a real opportunity wasted.
The best thing about the movie is Akshay Kumar playing an exaggerated version of himself – an alcoholic Mollywood superstar desperate for critical appreciation and a National Award by working in a film directed by an award-winning Bengali auteur. His scenes with the Bengali director are genuinely funny and it’s good to see that the action film star has such a good sense of humour about himself and his image. How this subplot ties into the main storyline is a bit of a stretch and it doesn’t quite work but it does provide some good laughs. Also funny are the cameos by some Mollywood stars near the end of the movie. Unfortunately, on the whole, there just aren’t enough of these amusing moments.
Cut to chase: There are a few chuckles but the script is underdeveloped and underwritten.
Snowpiercer *** 1/2
Dir: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Song Kang-ho, Ko Ah-sung Alison Pill, Octavia Spencer
The best science-fiction, even if set in the distant future, often works as an allegory for – and comments on – our present existence. Snowpiercer, adapted from the French graphic novel, “Le Transperceneige”, by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Mother) and co-writer Kelly Masterson, does just that. In a post-apocalyptic world, humanity’s only survivors all exist on a super-fast, super-long train which circumnavigates the planet on an annual schedule – the train acting as its self-sustaining eco-system. The elites live in the front compartments of the train in relative luxury while the have-nots bring up the rear, existing in overcrowded squalor, subsisting on rationed “protein” bars, and living in permanent fear for their lives. Now they’ve had enough. Leading the revolt is Curtis (Chris Evans) and his loyal sidekick, Edgar (Jamie Bell) with help from Curtis’ one-legged, one-armed mentor (John Hurt) and the feisty Tanya (Oscar-winning Octavia Spencer).
The set-up may not be the easiest to swallow but the narrative retains its internal coherency and almost all the questions that arise are satisfactorily answered along the way. In the telling of the tale, Bong delivers a brutal, intelligent, surreal, visual feast which brings to mind Terry Gilliam (John Hurt’s character is in fact named Gilliam), Guillermo Del Toro, Quentin Tarantino and John Carpenter among others. But the movie is very much its own thing – both visually and intellectually.
This is not an easy watch – the violence will hit you in the gut and you have to pay attention to the script – but it is very much worth your while.
Cut to chase: Brutal, intelligent science-fiction and a visually stunning film.