That review title, in case your brow is furrowed, is one thug's response when a captured Agent Vinod asks for a chilled beer as his last request before being executed. The bad guys, at this stage, have become very wary of Vinod's sheer badasssery. The bad guys really shouldn't have given Vinod even a paper cup of beer. They won't be in the sequel.
Saif Ali Khan - whose lineage boasts honest-to-gosh Indian royalty - is one of Bollywood's best and most versatile actors, although his wildest successes have come from his forays into romantic comedy (Hum Tum Bollywood DVD With English Subtitles, Salaam Namaste Bollywood DVD With English Subtitles, Love Aaj Kal (Two Disc Set)). I wasn't surprised that AGENT VINOD underperformed at the Indian box office, mostly because, at 156 minutes, it simply runs too long for an action flick. AGENT VINOD is Bollywood's slickest bid into the international spy thriller genre. It's not as bad as people make out. But, yes, it leaves itself open to rampant nitpicking.
Vinod is an agent of R.A.W. (Reclamation of Anti-terrorism Wallahs). Vinod's latest mission deploys him to St. Petersburg to investigate the murder of a colleague, an exposed fellow agent of R.A.W. (Rusticated Assembly of Wallowers?) who, before he was shot, was able to transmit one cryptic clue: the number 242. Concerned murmurs circulate regarding a nuclear suitcase bomb that has fallen in the hands of a terrorist. From Moscow to Marakkesh to Karachi to New Delhi to London, facing nuclear holocaust, an undeterred Vinod pursues the elusive item 242 and takes on a gauntlet of enemy operatives and dubious allies.
While AGENT VINOD isn't about to take global cinema by storm - and the James Bond and Jason Bourne franchises aren't close to sweating this - I foresee a franchise series for Saif Ali Khan. AGENT VINOD runs too long, yes, and there are dead spots in the middle, yes. But there's a nice polish to it. It's a stylish presentation. The production values are top notch. The action sequences may be standard stuff but they're well-executed, and, anyway, you should anticipate bombast in action flicks. The plot hurtles along at a frenetic pace, which at times makes it's hard to keep up.
I mentioned that the action is standard fare, but I have to single out the impressive hotel shoot-out sequence. Once more, assassins have targeted Vinod and his shady ally, Dr. Ruby Mendes (Kareena Kapoor). Two things make this a memorable and very cool sequence. The shoot-out is detailed in one marvelous extended, continuous tracking shot (lasting three minutes long) that follows Vinod and Dr. Mendes in the hotel as they move in and out of camera range in their attempt to survive the assassins. Throughout, a blind pianist serenades the cat and mouse goings-on with the melodious, melancholy "Raabta." I replayed this scene three times in a row, I liked it so much.
This isn't Saif Ali Khan's best performance, not even close. It's to do with that his character is this stoic and indestructible secret agent. No quips or ironic bon mots or much emotion from this gent from R.A.W. (Retiring Arthritic Wombats?). Still, Saif's trademark likability doesn't fail him. But, yeah, a little more character development - not just for him but for the entire cast - would've served the film better. Kareena Kapoor does generate enough uncertainty that you're not entirely sure which side she's on. The villains, sadly, are of the cardboard variety. I did relish the dichotomy brought about by the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám's doubling as a doomsday device.
Note that AGENT VINOD is presented in the Hindi language, but with optional English sub-titles. Since this is a Bollywood picture, there are musical interludes. My favorite is the aforementioned "Raabta" shoot-out sequence. Gorgeous Mallika Haydon is featured in the club banger specialty item "Steal the Night (I'll Do the Talking)." Kareena Kapoor and the sexy, cameo-appearing Maryam Zakaria are showcased in the more traditional number "Dil Mera Muft Ka," in which they perform an enticing mujra.
AGENT VINOD rates 3 or 3.5 out of 5 stars from me. A shorter running time would've been preferrable, and it does seem a bit soulless. But I enjoyed it, enjoyed watching our guy navigating an uncertain world of espionage and explosive danger. I enjoyed Saif and Kareena (a married couple in real life) in their moments together. I wish, though, that someone had broken down what the R.A.W. acronym stood for. It bugged me throughout the film. Raw Acidic Wasabi?