Multihyphenate Farhan Akhtar’s sequel to his 2006 hit “Don” reprises most of the original cast, including Priyanka Chopra, Om Puri and superstar Shah Rukh Khan as the suavely sexy master criminal, for an action-filled caper that stretches from Malaysia to Germany. Though the pic is respectful of the heist-film template — the gathering of the crew, the readying of props, the planned circumvention of all obstacles — its main imperative consists of placing Kahn in impossible situations and watching him trick or strongarm his way out. “Don 2” should equal or surpass its predecessor domestically and in the diaspora, with definite crossover potential.
The plot finds Don (Khan) already in control of the Asian underworld and poised to conquer Europe. The film’s well-choreographed first setpiece begins as a Euro gangster summit decrees his assassination, requiring Don to singlehandedly dispatch a small army of thugs waiting in ambush at a Thai arms dealer’s riverside enclave.
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Don’s version of laying low involves his surrender to his two longtime law-enforcement trackers, about-to-retire Inspector Malik (Puri) and onetime flame Roma (Chopra), offering them information for immunity. Unsurprisingly, they refuse and throw him in jail, where Don reverts to Plan B and starts assembling the team for a major operation.
He first recruits his worst enemy, Vardhaan (Boman Irani, excellent), by escaping from prison with him. Then, with the help of his talented mistress, Ayesha (Lara Dutta), he rounds out his gang with another would-be assassin, Jabbar (Nawwab Shah); high-ranking inside man Diwan (Aly Kahn); and computer hacker Sameer (Kunal Kapoor), an old associate now married and expecting a kid. Their target is a major German bank where the nation’s currency plates are stored.
Writer-director Akhtar handles the “Ocean’s Eleven”-type bank job with aplomb, but what gives the proceedings their zing are the strong emotional undercurrents interlinking Khan and his multiple enemies, and the palpable sexual sparks ricocheting between Kahn and conflicted cop Chopra. In contrast with “Ra.One,” Khan’s last overwrought starring venture, the explosions and CGI pyrotechnics in “Don 2” always take a backseat to physical immediacy and psychological tension. The fact that Kahn (finally fully recovered from back surgery) undertakes his own stunts certainly adds to the film’s kinetic flow.
The constant reversals and numerous twists that characterize Don’s convoluted schemes might strain credibility were they not so perfectly integrated into the character’s mischievous, table-turning mastery. As written and directed by Akhtar and thesped by Khan, Don takes such devilish delight in confounding his enemies’ expectations that the viewer cannot help but revel in his cleverness even when disturbed by his unapologetic villainy, knowing smirk and arrogant self-assurance.
Except for the pic’s mercifully few over-the-top musical numbers, which range from garish to ludicrous in their channeling of James Bond credit sequences, tech credits are ace. The film is being released in both 3D and 2D versions, with only the 2D version available for preview.