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Dhoom: 3
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by Jay Seaver

"Motorcycles, musical numbers, the circus - Indian action has it all."
3 stars

No prior experience with Bollywood's biggest action franchise is necessary to enjoy "Dhoom: 3", and that appears to be by design - the heroes carried over from the previous two installments are very much secondary to the "villain", who has been a new character and actor in each film of the series. It's not a bad formula; this movie may be a bit on the on the long and silly side at times, but it's got enough solidly entertaining pieces to fill a couple of hours, if not quite three.

The crook this time out is Sahir Khan (Aamir Khan), an acrobat and magician who has been robbing various branches of the Western Bank of Chicago and using the cash he doesn't just throw out on the street to repurchase and rebuild The Great Indian Circus, founded by his father and foreclosed upon by the head of said bank (Andrew Bicknell) twenty-odd years ago. Just as he's on the verge of reopening with himself and Hindi-American acrobat Aaliya (Katrina Kaif) as the main act, Mumbai detectives Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) and Ali Akbar Fateh Khan (Uday Chopra) are brought in to work the case, and while they and local detective Victoria (Tabrett Bethell) soon finger Sahir as the best suspect, every good magician has something up his sleeve.

Now, I will admit, the trick Sahir and writer/director Vijay Krishna Acharya have up their sleeves is not a new idea by any means, but Acharya springs it on the audience well enough at the intermission mark that the revelation is still fun, and because he and co-writer Aditya Chopra choose to do it then, they can use the way Bollywood movies tend to refocus and switch things up at that point to give Aamir Khan a somewhat wider range of things to do in the second half. He doesn't necessarily get better, per se - first-half Samir is actually a ton of fun, with a frequently-shirtless Khan pulling off just the right combination of entertaining showman and revenge-driven bastard to be a thoroughly entertaining anti-hero, and the second-half complications take away from that somewhat. Still, it's Khan's movie, and he seems to have a blast with it.

That puts returning protagonists Jai and Ali in an oddly secondary position, but there's a certain logic to that - by this point, they are what they are, so why put them front and center where their static nature may feel boring? They're an enjoyable duo, with Abhishek Bachchan's Jai a no-nonsense supercop without becoming self-parody while Uday Chopra's Ali is broad comic relief that generally stops well short of being grating. They seem like characters that fans of the series would be happy to see again, and they're enjoyable and capable enough to play against Aamir Khan. It's a bit of a shame that the women in the cast don't get more to do. Katrina Kaif is awfully darn cute and charming as an acrobat with one of the longest "hey, she's hot when she takes off her glasses" sequences you'll ever see, but Tabrett Bethell just seems to be there because only having a couple of guys from Mumbai investigating Chicago robberies would be silly.

Not that this movie necessarily has a problem with silly; the stories and motivations are fairly basic and dive headlong into over-the-top melodrama at the drop of a hat. At nearly three hours long even when shown without an intermission (as in most American theaters), it's somewhat excessive even by Bollywood standards, especially in the somewhat drawn-out second half. One well-executed twist and a few musical numbers inserted into the usual places don't quite justify inflating a fairly standard action script out to epic length.

On the other hand, the action bits do make something of a case for it. Motorcycle chases appear to be the Dhoom series's bread and butter, and this one has its fair share of nicely-executed ones. They're often way over the top - where Hollywood action often displays only a cursory nod toward real-world physics, Indian filmmakers often don't even bother with that, and why should they? They're already including song and dance scenes in their movies, so it makes a certain amount of sense for the other set pieces to be bigger-than-life! The funny thing is, all the slow motion and exaggerated action, with motorcycles at one point smashing through brick walls like it's no strange thing, actually makes things a lot easier to follow than shaky-cam chaos. Most of the musical numbers are fairly standard, if well-choreographed, but they and the acrobatic sequences probably look just as good as the action scenes in the IMAX upscale playing Indian theaters. And sometimes Acharya and his collaborators surprise; I don't know if I've seen anything like the stomping tap number that Aamir Khan has during the open credits in an Indian movie before, but it winds up being quite cool.

"Dhoom: 3" has its flaws, but it's generally a good time, and I must admit to being curious at just how much its focus on the second ingredient in a cops & robbers movie reflects the series as a whole. Even more than many Bollywood movies, it's an interesting alternative to the familiar way western filmmakers approach a familiar genre, and that's worth getting through a few drawn-out bits.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=26144&reviewer=371
originally posted: 12/31/13 23:29:03
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