You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


The same basic story of a heist betrayed from within completes its tour of the globe with Sanjay Gupta's "Kaante," the Bollywood reinterpretation of Quentin Tarantino's 1992 "Reservoir Dogs," itself a reinterpretation of Ringo Lam's 1987 "City on Fire," set in Hong Kong.

With: Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Sunil Shetty, Kumar Gaurav, Mahesh Manjrekar, Lucky Ali, Malaika Arora, Namrata Gujral-Cooper. (Hindi & English dialogue)

The same basic story of a heist betrayed from within completes its tour of the globe with Sanjay Gupta’s “Kaante,” the Bollywood reinterpretation of Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 “Reservoir Dogs,” itself a reinterpretation of Ringo Lam’s 1987 “City on Fire,” set in Hong Kong. Delayed many times from its original release date of June 7, the much-hyped big-budgeter finally went out worldwide Friday in some 800 prints, 25% of them overseas — and it’s largely worth the wait. Strongly cast with a raft of characterful Bollywood actors, and flawed mostly by curious color grading, “Kaante” is an involving, often kinetic 2½-hour ride for auds who can accept their entertainment overboiled as well as just hardboiled.

Though billed as the first Bollywood production shot entirely in Los Angeles, the musical numbers were in fact lensed in India. And though the story is L.A. set, the movie as a whole is not a whit less Bollywood than other productions shot in the U.K. or continental Europe.

Film’s first weekend in India was brawny. But after going a third over budget, for a final tab of 400 million rupees ($8.3 million) — huge by Mumbai standards — it will need a much broader acceptance by Indian auds than male-oriented crimers usually receive in order to recoup its outlay. Pic’s song album, released back in July, is already old news, and teasers and trailers have been running in all Indian media for months.

Though the film, especially in its second half, rehashes scenes familiar from “Dogs” (with different dialogue), it also refers back to “City” and other genre classics such as “The Usual Suspects.” More importantly, it adds a substantial amount of new material and has a general look and zeitgeist that’s pure Bollywood: There’s none of Tarantino’s stylized, slightly Runyon-esque wordplay here. Genre buffs — and fans of Asian cinema — will get a charge out of the reinterpretation factor alone.

Story is told in flashback by one of the gang, Maqbool “Mak” Haider (songwriter-turned-actor Lucky Ali), who recalls the group’s first meeting in an L.A. police station on May 12, 2000. Hauled in separately as suspects in a security-van robbery, the six Indians feel racially victimized in a way that Italian Mafiosi and Chinese triads never are.

This theme runs through the picture like a nationalistic clarion call, including one jolting sequence in which the gang dispatches an arms dealer who sold weapons to Kashmiri rebels back home. There’s also a considerable amount of linguistic comedy that relies on both Americans and the Hindi speakers not understanding each others’ languages.

Further flashbacks, some late in the movie, fill in most of the characters’ backgrounds. Yashvardhan “Major” Rampal (vet superstar Amitabh Bachchan) is a former gangster who tried to go straight and has a dying wife at home; Jay “Ajju” Rehan (Sanjay Dutt) is a hardened crim who actually committed the robbery they’re all accused of; a failed nightclub bouncer, Marc Issak (Sunil Shetty) is disastrously in love with the joint’s star performer, Lisa (Malaika Arora); Anand “Andy” Mathur (Kumar Gaurav) is a penniless software expert shut out by his ex-wife, Renu (Namrata Gujral-Cooper); and Raj “Bali” Yadav (screen newcomer Mahesh Manjrekar) is a stuttering, coke-dealing psycho with a retarded younger sister. Bali first met Mak when escaping from a deal gone wrong.

During their “Usual Suspects”-like meeting in custody — in which the interrogating cop, in a further film-buff reference, is called McQuarrie — Ajju proposes robbing a lightly guarded bank used by the police for their payroll. After planning sessions held on the roof of a hotel, and the robbery itself (briefly but acrobatically staged), the intermission comes as they triumphantly leave the bank.

Part Two literally starts with a bang — several, actually — in a bullet ballet that’s pure Asian action cinema, unbelievable in real terms. As the characters reconvene in a warehouse to divvy up the cash, Bali gets the idea that one of them is an informer, and they progressively start to turn on each other.

From the protags’ initial meeting, heavy on closeups, Gupta directs the film primarily as a character piece, with Bachchan, Dutt and semi-comic relief Manjrekar driving the drama with richly characterized roles. Shetty, a tightly wound actor at the best of times, strikes few sparks as the nightclub bouncer, and his scenes with Arora as the chanteuse (a role originally cast with Lisa Ray) are flat. Rest of the cast is OK but lower-key.

Aside from one song by the group before the robbery, and several others over montages, the musical numbers are largely sexy interludes with Arora and her fellow pole-dancers in the nightclub, cut like musicvideos rather than relying on mass choreography. Song score, mostly by Anand Raaj Anand, is typically hard-driven but more rhythmic than melodically memorable.

Gregor Narholz’s background score is atmospheric and attentive. However, other tech credits are only OK by current Bollywood standards. Strangest element is the color grading, which often shifts radically within sequences and, in L.A. exteriors, is bathed in various degrees of yellow, recalling segs of Michael Bay’s “Bad Boys.” Print caught also had a gray strip running down the right-hand side of the screen during the post-intermission reel.



Production: A Pritish Nandy Communications presentation of a White Feather Films/Film Club production. Produced by Raju Sharad Patel, Sanjay Gupta. Executive producer, Lawrence Mortorff. Directed by Sanjay Gupta. Associate director, Hriday Shethetty. Screenplay, Gupta, Yash-Vinay, Milap Zaveri; story, Gupta.

Crew: Camera (Foto-Kem color, widescreen), Kurt Brabbee; editor, Bunty Nagi; background music, Gregor Narholz; song music, Anand Raaj Anand, Vishaal-Shekhar, Lucky Ali; lyrics, Dev Kohli, Anand, Ali, Vishal; production designer, Peter Jamison; art director, Linda Spheeris; costume designers, Jerry Ross, Akbar Gabbana; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Sterling Moore; additional camera (India), Gupta; choreographer, Neisha Folkes; special effects, Prime Focus; special effects coordinator, Frank Ceglia; visual effects supervisor, George Merkert; associate producers, Anuradha Gupta, Sanjay Sippy, Hussain Shaikh. Reviewed at Odeon Wimbledon 5, Surrey, U.K., Dec. 20, 2002. Running time: 154 MIN. (I:79 MIN.; II: 75 MIN.)

With: With: Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Sunil Shetty, Kumar Gaurav, Mahesh Manjrekar, Lucky Ali, Malaika Arora, Namrata Gujral-Cooper. (Hindi & English dialogue)

More Film

  • 'Captain Marvel' Lands Day-and-Date China Release

    'Captain Marvel' Lands Day-and-Date China Release

    Marvel Studios’ hotly anticipated blockbuster “Captain Marvel” will hit Chinese theaters on the same day as it debuts in North America. The Brie Larson-starring picture will release on March 8, 2019, which is also International Women’s Day. Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the film tells the story of Carol Danvers, a former fighter [...]

  • Peter Rabbit trailer

    Australia Box Office Recovers, Grows 3.8% in 2018

    Gross theatrical box office in Australia grew by 3.6% in 2018, to $890 million (A$1.25 billion). The score was propelled by a rebound in the performance of the top local films. Data from the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia published Tuesday showed aggregate cinema revenues recovering after a dip in 2017. While the 2018 [...]

  • Why Megan Mullally Won't Talk Politics

    Q&A: Why Megan Mullally Won't Talk Politics While Hosting the SAG Awards

    Megan Mullally is funny. The “Will & Grace” star can also sing and dance. While she’s not picking up the Oscar hosting gig after the Kevin Hart fiasco, Mullally will take center stage on Sunday, Jan. 27 when she makes her debut as the host of the 25th annual SAG Awards. Variety caught up with [...]

  • Glass trailer

    'Glass': Five Box Office Takeaways From M. Night Shyamalan's Thriller

    With his fifth No. 1 box office opening, M. Night Shyamalan has plenty to celebrate. “Glass,” the conclusion to a trilogy that consists of the 2000 cult hit “Unbreakable” and 2016’s box office sensation “Split,” topped the box office last weekend — though its win comes with a few caveats. James McAvoy reprised his role [...]

  • Berlin: Patra Spanou Picks Up Panorama

    Berlin: Patra Spanou Picks Up Panorama Title 'Family Members' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Patra Spanou has picked up world sales rights to “Los miembros de la familia” (Family Members), which will world premiere in the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama section. Variety has been given an exclusive first look of the film’s trailer. The film is the second feature from writer/director Mateo Bendesky, and is produced by Agustina Costa [...]

  • Great Point Media, The Development Partnership

    Great Point Media, Development Partnership Join Forces on Slate of Movies

    Great Point Media and The Development Partnership, the development and production arm of the talent agency the Artists Partnership, are joining forces to develop, package, and co-produce multiple films, kicking off with three projects, including “Chasing Agent Freegard,” starring James Norton (“War & Peace”). “Chasing Agent Freegard,” which is being produced by “Captain Phillips” co-producer [...]

  • Berlin: FiGa Acquires ‘Landless,’ Drops ‘Hormigas’

    Berlin: FiGa Acquires ‘Landless,’ Drops ‘Hormigas’ Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sandro Fiorin’s Miami-based FiGa Films, a leading sales agent on the independent Latin American scene, has announced the acquisition of Brazilian doc “Landless,” and released a trailer for the Costa Rican-Spanish drama “El despertar de las hormigas.” Both features will play at this year’s Berlinale Forum and come from young Latin American filmmakers making their [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content