It came out almost two weeks ago now, but it certainly seems like it’s time to double back and take a look at the Bollywood import Dhoom 3, the third film in a popular Indian action-comedy-musical series that seeks to ape the thrills and excess of major Hollywood blockbusters. They’re genuinely entertaining films, even if this third entry is admittedly the weakest of the bunch. But while the first films were a lot more fleet footed in their approach, this largely Chicago based, motorcycle chase packed crime saga loses the air in its tires around the halfway point and spends 90 more minutes coasting to a somewhat obvious and abrupt conclusion on its rims.
Back are Mumbai’s top reckless and brilliant undercover cops: suave and professional Jai Dixet (Abhishek Bachchan) and his goofball, constantly horny ex-con partner Ali (Uday Chopra). This time, they’re sent off to The Windy City where disgruntled circus performer Sahir (Aamir Khan) has been targeting one of the city’s largest banks for a series of elaborate heists. Blaming the bank for the collapse of The Great Indian Circus – his father’s pride and joy – and the suicide of his dad, Sahir takes what he can carry, gives a bunch away, and whatever he can’t use, he destroys in a mission to put the bank out of business for good. Jai and Sahir begin a bit of a cat and mouse game to constantly deceive and entrap the other.
Dhoom 3 clocks in at just a shade under three hours, with most of the film’s action and excitement crammed into the first half rather than the second, and despite most of the film’s spectacularly shot chases obviously taking place in the same three block section of Chicago, they’re pretty inventive and impressive in scale. Sure, they’re borrowing liberally from everything from any number of American and Asian produced action films, but it’s all in lovingly crafted good fun. It’s in touch with its own silliness. This is the kind of film where no brick wall is safe from getting punched right through it and motorcycles can jump off bridges and transform into jet skis. The chief villain is a hilariously straight faced, bitchy old white guy (Andrew Bicknell) who hates artists and whimsy. The stunt work is top notch and series writer Vijay Krishna Achary asserts himself nicely in his first trip into the director’s chair for the series. There’s a love story involving Sahir’s recently hired and smoking hot female assistant (Katrina Kaif) and plenty of songs about the power of love. It’s all quite silly, but also a considerable amount of fun and it all looks great in IMAX (the first film of its kind from India to be released in the large screen format). It’s “all the world’s a stage” mentality applied to the heist movie aesthetic is positively charming and hard to resist.
That fun really wears off just after the point where the intermission would fall, however, once the film produces a game changing twist (cribbed directly from the end one of the most famous films about magic and then run into the ground) and the film’s half-baked love story becomes the central focus for far too long. Instead of keeping the energy up, it slams on the brakes and waits for the audience to relax before delivering a climax that isn’t as good as any of the chases in the film’s first half (except for a considerable amount of cop cars getting tossed around and destroyed). What makes the second half of the film watchable in spite of the tedium (and a potentially insensitive twist that might rankle or make some uncomfortable) is the impressive performance of Khan, who shows a wide range that no one else is able to come close it.
Dhoom 3 has held its own in North American multiplexes over the past few weeks against some pretty stiff homegrown competition during the holiday season, but it also definitely suggests that the franchise has almost run out of fuel. It’s a fun bit of offbeat counter-programming for the holiday season and action movie fans starved for anything to whet their appetite, but I would still suggest seeking out the other two entries in the series before this one (and no, you don’t need to have seen the other films to get into this one, if that at all matters to you).