The up-tempo comic cyber-thriller “Mickey Virus” is not without antecedents. This likable new Bollywood youth comedy about a close knit group of hacker/slacker screw-ups in New Delhi owes a fair amount to both “3 Idiots,” the 2009 Aamir Khan film about students at the Indian Institute of Technology, and to “Delhi Belly,” a 2011 gross-out comedy (Bollywood’s first) that was set in a notably grubby version of the same milieu. In India, where the pic opened to decent but unspectacular box-office over the weekend, it is also being compared with the hit 2012 comedy “Vicky Donor.”
But while it’s not really anything new, “Mickey Virus” feels fresh, wit a pervasive no-sweat attitude. The leading players are all brand new to movie acting: Popular TV host Manish Paul (who could be Johnny Knoxville’s Hindu kid brother) has the tile role as a genius hacker recruited by the police, reality TV star Elli Avram is his dream-girl love interest, and gifted snarler Puja Gupta is his “tomboy” hacker-chick pal (a la Alison Pill as the crabby drummer in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”). That all three of these novice actors give such relaxed and confident performers is a credit to the movie’s first-time writer-director, former marketing specialist Saurabh Varma.
With his marketing background, one might expect Varma to have a flashy visual style reminiscent of directors such as Ridley and Tony Scott (or India’s Mani Ratnam and Sanjay Leela Bhansali), who apprenticed in commercials. Instead, he stages dialogue-driven scenes of scheming and complaining that only occasionally wear out their welcome.
The underlying thriller plot in “Mickey Virus,” in which an elusive international gang conspires to drain a bank account full of “black money” (the fruits of political corruption), is impressively complicated for a comedy. During the final hour or so, so many high-strung characters are shouting elaborate explanations at each other that we begin to wonder how much of this we’re expected to keep track of. But director Varma and his co-writers, Gaurav Varma and Elvin Raja, have a playful attitude toward the surprise twists and layers of deception they’ve carefully engineered. They have pride of craft and sense of fun, a winning combination.