Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai **
Dir: Prabhudeva. With: Salman Khan, Disha Patani, Randeep Hooda, Jackie Shroff. 113 mins. Cert: 15
Circumstance means what was originally scheduled as India’s big Eid blockbuster for May 2020 is opening a year later in cinemas everywhere but India. (It launched on streaming platforms there this past weekend.) In his guise as producer-megastar, musclebound Salman Khan has dispatched his minions to hollow out the taut narrative chicanery of 2017’s Korean thriller The Outlaws and reconfigure its carcass into the kind of flattering vehicle only a powerful Bollywood leading man can command. Despite some early, welcome flickers of the self-awareness that’s crept into Khan’s projects over the past half-decade, the result is very much back-to-basic-business. The more knowing nonsense really just serves to make the eventual slump into third-rate pummelling more dispiriting yet.
Most of that nonsense, which does prompt fitful back-row giggles, concerns Khan’s indomitable hero cop Radhe. “He has his own methods of working,” insists one of the Mumbai Police chiefs recruiting him to protect the city’s youth from straggle-haired druglord Randeep Hooda. These include: never entering via the door when he can leap face-first through glass windows, manifesting in multiple locations simultaneously so as to better box his quarries’ ears, and – less amusing – casually torturing suspects. A chance encounter with postergirl Diya (Disha Patani) encourages our man to try male modelling; this love interest, naturally, turns out to be the sister of Radhe’s ever more exasperated CO (Jackie Shroff). Don’t ask about the 35-year age gap between these siblings; no-one behind the camera bothered.While the jocular, self-mocking Salman is still preferable to the puppy-eyed sentimentalist who made 2017’s Tubelight and 2019’s Bharat such ordeals, there’s an awful lot of self to mock here, and not nearly enough craft to counterbalance that ego. Hired to glam up an expensive-looking nightclubnumber, guest star Jacqueline Fernandez gets elbowed out of sight once Radhestorms the stage to prat around. Quality control gets shoved off soon after. One bathroom punch-up is shot on such cheap, smeary digital it all but resembles rehearsal footage. Even the fun stuff is lowish-grade and limited, because our guy’s heroism is forever meant to be taken as sacrosanct. Director Prabhudeva’s cursory dash through the not-so-grand finale suggests he clearly wanted it over; you may do, too.