Three West London wideboys gain a new-found responsibility in the process of doing up an Indian restaurant in this laddish low-budget caper from writer-director Atul Malhotra.
Growing up on the mean streets of Hounslow, childhood friends Amar, Akbar and Tony have long looked out for one another through thick and thin. Lately, however, there’s been more of the latter: after seeing his promising legal career torpedoed in the wake of a nightclub brawl, the brooding Amar (Rez Kempton) gets a second chance when estate agent Akbar (Sam Vincenti) spies an Indian restaurant in need of fixing up. As for white boy Tony (Martin Delaney), forever along for the ride, he’s just interested in hooking up with someone. Anyone.
If something here sounds familiar, it’s because Malhotra’s riffing on 1977’s Amar Akbar Anthony, a beloved Bollywood masala that found a defining role for the legendary Amitabh Bachchan. Malhotra replicates the original’s scattershot plotting while playing down its religious aspect, and dropping any pretensions to class: Brit-Asian figureheads Nina Wadia and Meera Syal see their honed timing squandered in demeaning bit-parts, while an early cameo from Maggot of Welsh rappers Goldie Lookin’ Chain as a toilet attendant more or less sets the level.
In his feature debut, Malhotra displays a curious mix of good intentions and lousy instincts: he hides his potentially heartwarming material behind an hour of leering. This roguish triumvirate are meant to learn maturity and responsibility, but there’s a lot of lamentable banter and cutaways to strippers’ bums, and the film scarcely knows what to do with sincere turns from Dev Sagoo (as Amar’s dad) and Karen David (as an abused bride): the latter’s attempted suicide is one of several moments where Malhotra can only offer a clueless shrug.
Of the leads, Kempton negotiates these berserk tonal shifts with a calm gravitas that suggests better scripts might eventually come his way, but it’s simply very hard to like Vincenti’s flash Foxtonite or Delaney’s thoroughly unreconstructed bloke, which makes long stretches of lairy girl-chasing pretty excruciating to behold. It may still pass muster or perhaps even strike chords with a less-than-demanding post-pub crowd, but any grandparents heading to the multiplex with fond memories of the wholesome original are going to be in for a terrible shock.
Amar Akbar & Tony opens in selected cinemas from today.