×

Players

Twin brother helmers Abbas and Mustan Burmawalla (billed as Abbas-Mustan) refashion the 2003 version of "The Italian Job" with "Players," a rare example of a Bollywood remake that officially credits its source.

With:
With: Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Bipasha Basu, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Omi Vaidya, Sikander Kher, Vinod Khanna, Johnny Lever, Vyacheslav Razbegaev. (India Hindi, English, Russian dialogue)

Twin brother helmers Abbas and Mustan Burmawalla (billed as Abbas-Mustan) refashion the 2003 version of “The Italian Job” with “Players,” a rare example of a Bollywood remake that officially credits its source. Toplined by Abhishek Bachchan, this heist comedy globetrots from Russia to India to New Zealand, managing to mount a cheerful and enjoyable caper along the way. However, the pic nabbed only a meager $2.5 million domestically on its opening weekend, as local auds continue to favor Shah Rukh Khan’s rival caper, “Don 2,” which has ruled the Indian B.O. since its December release.

Beginning in Amsterdam (though shot in St. Petersburg), the action establishes Bachchan as master criminal Charlie Masceranhas, who, with the assistance of sultry collaborator Riya (Bipasha Basu), relieves an exclusive boutique of a diamond necklace. Lying low in India, Charlie visits his imprisoned criminal mentor, Victor (Vinod Khanna), who invites him to stage a major heist to bankroll an orphanage aimed at preventing wayward children from growing up to be guys like them. Victor insists the scheme be kept secret from his honest daughter (Sonam Kapoor).

The plan is to steal Romanian gold bars that have been held by Russia for “safekeeping” since the 1917 Revolution, but are now being returned to Romania by train. Charlie enlists a crack team consisting of an illusionist (Bobby Deol), a prosthetics genius (Omi Vaidya), an explosives expert (Sikander Kher), the money-hungry Riya and a shady technocrat hacker (Neil Nitin Mukesh) who goes by the name of Spider. As per “The Italian Job,” the successful robbery — improbable but quite thrilling — reveals a viper in the nest. Those that survive the betrayal must travel to New Zealand to steal the gold back in the pic’s second half.

Firing on all cylinders in part one, the helmers struggle mightily to outdo themselves in the second half, which hews much more closely to the source pic. As “Players” approaches its climax, overfamiliar elements — including small cars, natch — start to grate, and production values decline.

Nevertheless, the helmers keep things moving apace, handling some major setpieces with considerable finesse, particularly the train robbery itself. Intrigue among the various players avoids dullness between the robust action sequences. Bachchan acquits himself well enough as the suave ringleader, but is overshadowed by two co-stars: Basu, dazzling as the unpredictable femme fatale, and Mukesh, who supplies a Bond villain’s droll intensity as Spider.

The pulsing soundtrack maintains a high energy level, while the dance numbers are entertaining if standard subcontinental MTV fare. Basu’s gyrations as she seduces a Russian general (Vyacheslav Razbegaev) to “Ho gayi tun” are an eye-catching and amusing highlight, while another seduction number, the Latin-flavored “Dil yeh bekaraar kyun hai” provides Kapoor with her only shining moment.

Lensing quality varies in the Antipodean interlude, lacking the visual sharpness of the footage shot in the northern hemisphere. Other tech credits are pro.

Players

India

Production: An Eros Intl. release of a Viacom18 Motion Pictures production, in association with Burmawala Bros. (International sales: Eros Intl., Mumbai.) Produced by Suresh Vaswani, Mohammad Burmawala. Directed by Abbas Burmawalla, Mustan Burmawalla. Screenplay, Rohit Jugraj, Sudip Sharma, based on the story by Nikhat Bhatty, Bhaskar Hazarika, Sourabh Ratnu, adapted from the screenplay "The Italian Job" by Donna Powers, Wayne Powers.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Ravi Yadav; editor, Hussain Burmawala; music, Sandeep Shirodkar; Pritam Chakraborty, Ashish Pandit; art directors, Ashish Anant Ranande, Nick Riera; costume designer, Anahita Shroff Adajania; action director, Allan Amin; choreographers, Bosco Martis, Caesar Gonsalves, Raju Khan; sound, Rakesh Ranjan. Reviewed at Cinema 3, Event Cinemas, Burwood, Sydney, Jan. 5, 2012. Running time: 167 MIN. (I: 82 MIN., II: 85 MIN.)

With: With: Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Bipasha Basu, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Omi Vaidya, Sikander Kher, Vinod Khanna, Johnny Lever, Vyacheslav Razbegaev. (India Hindi, English, Russian dialogue)

More Film

  • Voltage Pictures to Produce Airborne Thriller

    Voltage Pictures to Produce Airborne Thriller 'Blackwing' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Voltage Pictures will produce and fully finance screenwriter David Loughery’s latest thriller “Blackwing,” Variety has learned exclusively. The company will introduce “Blackwing” to buyers at the upcoming European Film Market at the Berlin Film Festival, which opens Feb. 7. More Reviews Iranian Film Festival New York Review: 'Sheeple' Film Review: ‘Storm Boy’ Nicolas Chartier and [...]

  • ‘Metro Exodus’ Opens Up Post-Apocalyptic Russia

    ‘Metro Exodus’ Author On Film, Possible TV Series, Expansive New Game

    Since the launch of the post-apocalyptic survival first-person shooter “Metro 2033” in 2010, the series has kept its action confined to the tunnels running underneath Russia. “Metro Exodus,” due out next month, takes the gameplay to the surface for the first time, going above ground with sprawling levels against a changing backdrop of weather conditions [...]

  • Berlin Film 'The Ground Beneath My

    Berlin Competition Film 'The Ground Beneath My Feet' Sold to Germany's Salzgeber (EXCLUSIVE)

    Salzgeber has acquired the German rights for Berlin Film Festival competition title “The Ground Beneath My Feet” from sales agent Picture Tree International. Variety has been given exclusive access to the film’s trailer. Salzgeber will release the film, directed by Marie Kreutzer, mid-May. Picture Tree describes the movie as a “contemporary female-led drama touching on [...]

  • Donald Glover'Atlanta' TV show premiere, Arrivals,

    Childish Gambino Surprises Beverly Hills Crowd With Reimagined 'Redbone'

    Donald Glover made an unexpected appearance at Film Independent’s “An Evening With…” series tonight (Jan. 15), held at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills and presented by the HFPA. Joining “Black Panther” composer and Childish Gambino collaborator Ludwig Göransson, who was the subject of a Q&A conducted by “The Treatment” host Elvis [...]

  • 76th ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS --

    Film News Roundup: Glenn Close Selected for Oscar Wilde Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Glenn Close gets an honor, AFI names its Directing Workshop for Women participants and Teri Polo gets cast in a Christmas drama. CLOSE HONOR More Reviews Iranian Film Festival New York Review: 'Sheeple' Film Review: ‘Storm Boy’ Glenn Close will be honored on Feb. 21 by the US-Ireland Alliance at [...]

  • Jason Reitman Ghostbusters

    Jason Reitman to Direct Secret 'Ghostbusters' Movie

    Sony Pictures is getting the wheels in motion for the next installment in the “Ghostbusters” franchise, and it knows who it’s going to call to direct: Jason Reitman. Sources tell Variety that Reitman, whose father, Ivan, directed the first two “Ghostbusters” movies, will direct the latest pic in the famous franchise. More Reviews Iranian Film Festival [...]

  • L.A. Teachers' Strike: Hollywood Studios, Unions

    Hollywood Studios, Unions Support Parents and Educators as L.A. Teachers' Strike Rages

    Hollywood unions and entertainment companies have stepped up to support the 31,000 Los Angeles teachers in the second day of a massive strike that’s affected nearly half a million students. More than 50 SAG-AFTRA members picketed at a Tuesday afternoon rally in the driving rain next to the Hollywood & Highland Center with secretary-treasurer Jane [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content