Thursday, October 14, 2010

Knock Out: Movie Review **

Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Irrfan Khan, Kangana Ranaut


In contemporary cellular era when PCOs have almost become dormant, this film literally 'showcases' a fancy phone booth at central crossroads with swanky glass exteriors, newspaper decked interiors and (believe-it-or-not) a bulletproof bottom pane. Naturally the makers want to give an appealing appearance to the setting, since almost the entire film is stationed in and around the phone booth (of course, pun intended). Only if they had put as much effort in adding more appeal to the narrative, Knock Out would have been a watchable fare.

A man (Irrfan Khan) enters this phone booth to make forbidden calls and avoid getting traced. Supposedly an investment banker, he has an entire bank worth millions stuffed in his car parked outside the booth. Just when he is about to leave the booth, the phone rings and he takes the call. On the other end is an anonymous caller (Sanjay Dutt) who is keeping a close eye on the banker and holds him as hostage inside the phone booth at concealed gunpoint from the opposite edifice.

Soon police cover the area and a media circus follows. The media identifies the hostage as some Tony though Sanjay Dutt keeps repeatedly referring him by his alias 'Bachu' to an extent that you tend to assume that it symbolizes the 'childish' conduct of this cinema. Supplementary characters are stuffed in the form of a high-profile politician (Gulshan Grover) who asserts in his introductory dialogue that he doesn't trust any human, though ironically he has a sidekick merely to read and remember the password of his Swiss Bank accounts. Then there is director-turned-actor Apoorva Lakhia who tries too hard to look cool as a cold-blooded encounter specialist but comes across as the best deadpan face since the advent of Himesh Reshammiya.

While the body of Knock Out is evidently derived from Colin Farrell's Hollywood flick Phone Booth (2002), the soul of the film is derivative of our homeland Hindi film A Wednesday (2008). Sanjay Dutt's characterization of a nameless individual who takes the city under siege using modern gadgetry is a clear parallel to Naseeruddin Shah's character from A Wednesday . Other analogies include how he deceives the cops of his whereabouts and conceals his real identity throughout. Also Kangana Ranaut's news reporter character comes from the same film though Deepal Shaw was certainly more effective in her role. Unfortunately Knock Out doesn't even come halfway as close to the spirit of A Wednesday . The patriotism that Dutt tries to infuse through his demonstrative discourse appears absurd, artificial and accounts to emotional attyachar .

One could have overlooked the inspirations and improbabilities had Mani Shankar's hold on the thriller been gripping. Sadly the director fails to bind the audience with a taut narrative. And this despite the fact that the flow remains uninterrupted by any song, dance or comedy tracks. With almost the entire film stationed around the phone booth and the events unfolding in real time, the storytelling could have been focused. Rather it becomes one-dimensional and fails to generate the necessary tension between the lead characters though it had immense scope for it. The proceedings appear repetitive and senselessly stretched. With its single-setting, the film largely relies on its wordplay but Shiraz Ahmed's dialogues are uninspiring and mediocre.

The mood suddenly switches to an emotional melodrama in the second half. Soon after Irrfan Khan does a mock striptease, he makes an emotional confession on national television about his philandering ways. Then there's a lecture on desh bhakti which gets too preachy. The viewer remains unmoved all through. Allan Amin's dhishoom dhishoom action sequences in the climax lack the punch.

The performances will simply knock you out. Irrfan Khan's act is as twisted as his hairstyle. He screams, shouts, dances, hams and does everything other than acting. Kangana Ranaut is a perfect miscast. As a news reporter, she staggers and struggles with a severe accent problem. Apoorva Lakhia is unintentionally funny. Sanjay Dutt is the only saving grace and tries hard to salvage this phony film.

Knock Out only beats around the booth and will leave you conked out. Enter at your own peril.
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