Friday, March 21, 2008

Race - A Gripping Thriller??????

The official website of Abbas-Mustan's Race calls it a "gripping, multi-star thriller". Now that I have watched the film I'm wondering if I watched the same film. Multi-star, yes. But a gripping thriller? Either I don't understand what a thriller is, or Burmawala brothers have a strange sense of humour. I decided to turn to wikipedia to check how Race stands against the definition of this genre called thriller. So here goes my checklist:

"Thrillers often take place wholly or partly in exotic settings such as foreign cities, deserts, polar regions, or high seas" – Check. Durban, South Africa certainly qualifies as an exotic foreign city.

"The heroes in most thrillers are frequently "hard men" accustomed to danger" Bravo! Abbas-Mustan must have read this while working with their scriptwriters. The only attempt at character development in Race was to establish that the 'hero' lives on the edge, with a passion for dangerous sports. Well done. Another check.

"In a thriller, the hero must thwart the plans of an enemy, rather than uncover a crime that has already happened" - Check. Race adheres to this as well.

"Jeopardy and violent confrontations are standard plot elements" - Check.

"A thriller climaxes when the hero finally defeats the villain" - Again, check.

I'm sorry, but it seems that I was wrong and Race is indeed a "thriller".

But hang on. Here's the clincher. Wikipedia winds up the characteristics of a thriller with these lines:

"Thrillers may be defined by the primary mood that they exhibit: excitement. In short, if it 'thrills', it is a thriller"


I'm disputing the categorization of Race as a thriller only because it failed to excite me, or provide any thrills. I found the first 30 minutes of the film absolutely boring with the plot getting nowhere! The device of a narrator establishing the characters just doesn't work here. I'm not sure if it would work in any thriller. And even when the plot thickens a bit, I wasn't 'thrilled'. Call me old school or whatever, but I believe in the good old written word. Style cannot be a substitute for content in my book. Thousands of slo-mos, jump cuts, cars blasting and flying left right and center - all this emphasized by a thumping background score - cannot induce excitement into material that's just not written to be exciting. The basic premise of the plot - the primary motive that drives the characters to do what they do – is as clich├ęd as can be. And what does one say about the walk-towards-the-camera-in-slow-motion introduction of lead characters that has already been beaten to death of late?

Then you have the innumerable plot-twists. Plot-twists work well in a thriller if they are judiciously used to shock the audience, but when the philosophy of more-the-better comes into play it can be seriously counterproductive. In Race, the twists are so frequent (and so predictable and lame) that after a while I just didn't care what 'shock' came in next, nor was I interested in knowing how the film would end.

Now for the saving grace. Just one: this one is more 'thrilling' than the director-duo's last hit, 36 China Town. Now that isn’t saying much, is it?