Review: ‘Tiger 3,’ starring Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif and Emraan Hashmi

November 27, 2023

by Carla Hay

Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif in “Tiger 3” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

“Tiger 3”

Directed by Maneesh Sharma

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking in various countries in Asia and Europe, the action film “Tiger 3” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A husband and wife, who are government spies for competing agencies, get into various problematic entanglements involving betrayals and conspiracies.

Culture Audience: “Tiger 3” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the “Tiger” movie franchise/YRF Spy Universe and movie’s headliners, but the movie is overly convoluted with almost nothing original to offer.

Katrina Kaif in “Tiger 3” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

“Tiger 3” is the continuation of 2012’s “Ek Tha Tiger” and 2017’s “Tiger Zinda Hai,” a movie series about love partners who are also spies for the Indian government. All three movies are part of the larger YRF (Yash Raj Films) Spy Universe, which includes 2019’s “War” and 2023’s “Pathaan.” “Tiger 3” certainly has the production budget to be a big movie spectacle, with all the expected explosions and over-the-top fight scenes. It could have been a much better action film, but too much silly dialogue and too many formulaic scenarios lower the quality of the movie. It’s a globetrotting spy flick that frequently changes locations but tells the same type of revenge story.

Directed by Maneesh Sharma and written by Shridhar Raghavan, “Tiger 3” has a convoluted story that often gets unfocused. It’s not necessary to “Ek Tha Tiger” and “Tiger Zinda Hai” before seeing “Tiger 3,” but it helps if you want more information about the main characters. Seeing these previous two movies will just show that “Ek Tha Tiger” and “Tiger Zinda Hai” are better than “Tiger 3.”

The two spy spouses who are at the center of the “Tiger” movie series are Avinash “Tiger” Singh Rathore (played by Salman Khan) and Zoya (played by Katrina Kaif), who each work for different government agencies. Tiger works for the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), which is the foreign intelligence agency for India. Zoya works for The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which is the largest intelligence agency for Pakistan.

“Tiger 3” begins in London, with a flashback to October 1999, when Zoya (played Gurket Kaur) is in her late teens or early 20s. She is shown doing kickboxing exercises with her father Rehan Nazar (played by Aamir Bashir), who works for ISI. Rehan is soon killed in an explosion. Rehan’s ISI colleague Aatish Rehman (played by Emraan Hashmi) asks Zoya if she wants to lead a normal life or follow in her father’s footsteps. Of course, viewers know what decision she makes.

“Tiger 3” then jumps to the present day to show an elaborate rescue mission sequence where Tiger is supposed to save his former handler Gopi Arya (played by Ranvir Shorey), who has been trying to get information about a planned assassination of a RAW agent named Jibran Sheikh (played by Neeraj Purohit) in Pakistan. And what a coincidence: Zoya is somehow involved in this assassination plot. (Her reason won’t be revealed in this review.)

The movie then zig zags between betrayals, kidnappings, framing for crimes and imprisonments, while the story jumps around from place to place in various countries such as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, and Austria. Somehow, with all this mayhem going on, and Tiger and Zoya spending very little time at home, viewers are supposed to believe that they are also attentive parents to their son Junior (played by Sartaaj Kakkar), who’s about 11 or 12 years old.

But surprise! There’s another member of the family who is introduced in “Tiger 3.” This long-lost family member is named Hassan Ali (played by Vishal Jethwa), who meets Tiger for the first time in the movie. Hassan’s relationship to Tiger is explained in the story, which just seemed to throw in the Hassan character just to add to the overstuffed plot.

One of the worst scenes in the movie is a fight between Zoya and a mysterious operative named General Zimou (played by Michelle Lee), who attack each other inside a luxury spa in Istanbul. Zoya and General Zimou are wearing nothing but towels in this fight scene. And during the most brutal parts of the fight, the towels unrealistically stay intact.

General Zimou is an unnecessary character, so this fight scene looks like it was put in the movie as an exploitative gimmick to show two women fighting while barely clothed. The male stars of “Tiger 3” would never have been asked to do this type of scene that tries to tease the audience into thinking that there will be some nudity from the brawlers during the fight. It’s all just so blatantly sexist filmmaking that treats women as sex objects.

Tiger’s supervisor is RAW chief Maithili Menon (played by Revathi), who seems to be in the movie as a useless boss, since she doesn’t know a lot of what Tiger is up to and doesn’t really help when Tiger needs her the most. The movie also does a terrible job of convincing any viewer with common sense that Zoya and Tiger, who openly live together as spouses, can continue to fool their competing government agencies that this marriage is not a conflict of interest to their jobs. Because of the movie’s ridiculous action scenes, the mediocre-to-bad acting, and flimsy plot twists, “Tiger 3” becomes mind-numbing after a while and does not earn its long-winded 156-minute total running time.

Yash Raj Films released “Tiger 3” in select U.S. cinemas on November 11, 2023, and in India on November 12, 2023.

Review: ‘Gadar 2,’ starring Sunny Deol, Ameesha Patel, Utkarsh Sharma, Manish Wadhwa, B.N. Sharma, Gaurav Chopra and Simrat Kaur

August 14, 2023

by Carla Hay

Sunny Deol and Manish Wadhwa in “Gadar 2” (Photo courtesy of Zee Studios)

“Gadar 2”

Directed by Anil Sharma

Hindi and Urdu with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in 1971, in India and in Pakistan, the action film “Gadar 2” (a sequel to the 2001 film “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha”) features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: During Pakistan’s “Crush India” campaign, a Pakistani military leader decides to get revenge on the Indian man whom he blames for killing 40 of his soldiers in 1954, and the Indian man’s adult son also gets caught up in the vendetta.

Culture Audience: “Gadar 2” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the film’s headliners and the movie “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha,” but “Gadar 2” is yet another example of a sequel that is vastly inferior to the original movie.

Sunny Deol, Ameesha Patel and Utkarsh Sharma in “Gadar 2” (Photo courtesy of Zee Studios)

“Gadar 2” is a disappointing mess that offers nothing clever to this saga. This sequel to the 2001 film “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha” is proof that waiting several years to make a sequel doesn’t mean that the filmmakers can think of any good ideas for that sequel. The first “Gadar” movie (which took place from 1947 to 1954) was a romance about two people from feuding nations (India and Pakistan), who fell in love with each other, despite disapproval from almost everyone around them. “Gadar 2” is just another mindless action flick about a family caught up in a revenge plot.

Directed by Anil Sharma and written by Shaktimaan Talwar (who, respectively, directed and wrote “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha”), “Gadar 2” also brings back several of the principal cast members who were in “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha.” (“Ek Prem Katha” means “love story” in Hindi.) The events in “Gadar 2” take place primarily in 1971, during Pakistan’s “Crush India” campaign. The movie’s story occurs in India and in Pakistan. The beginning of “Gadar 2” has some introductory scenes as a summary of what took place in “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha.”

In “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha,” Indian Hindu truck driver Tara Singh (played by Sunny Deol) fell in love with a Pakistani Muslim former college classmate named Sakeena “Sakku” Ali (played by Ameesha Patel) during the Partition of India in 1947, when India and Pakistan were in deadly conflicts with each other. Tara and Sakina got married and had a son named Charanjeet “Jeete” Singh (played by Utkarsh Sharma), who was abut 6 years old at the end of the “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha.” Deol, Patel and Sharma all reprise these roles in “Gadar 2.”

In “Gadar 2,” Jeete is now about 23 years old. He lives with his parents in an unnamed city in India. Jeete has been having problems. Much to his parents’ dismay, Jeete has been truant from college. He wants to drop out of college and do something else with his life, but he hasn’t figured out what that is yet. Jeete gets into arguments with his parents, who worry about what the future might hold for aimless Jeete.

Meanwhile, a Pakistani major general named Hamid Iqbal (played by Manish Wadhwa) is plotting to get revenge on Tara, because he blames Tara for 40 of his men getting killed during events that happened in “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha.” In case that information isn’t clear, Major General Iqbal repeats it several times in the movie, because the filmmakers must think viewers are idiots for not getting this information the first few times it was mentioned. Major General Iqbal is the same person who murdered Tara’s father, so Tara has his own reason to get revenge on this corrupt military official.

Major General Iqbal finds out that Tara and Sakina are living with Jeete in India. It’s around the same time that Tara mysteriously disappears. Tara’s family believes he might have been kidnapped and is being held captive in Pakistan. Sakina meets with an Indian lieutenant colonel named Devendra Rawat (played by Gaurav Chopra) to ask for his help in finding Tara. Lieutenant Colonel Rawat warns Sakina that another major Indian-Pakistani conflict is coming.

Against Sakina’s wishes, Jeete sneaks out of the house with a plan to find Tara in Pakistan. Jeete uses a fake passport to cross the border into Pakistan, but he is very nervous when he is questioned about his nationality and loyalties by a Pakistani border agent. Someone who notices Jeete from a distance is Major Anwar Ali (played by Abrar Zahoor), a Pakistani assistant sub-inspector who knows that Jeete is Tara’s son.

Jeete and Major Ali make brief eye contact and look at each other, as if they both know about Jeete’s lies to cross the border. Jeete crosses the border and quickly disappears into the crowd before Major Ali can apprehend him. It isn’t long before Major Ali alerts his colleagues to tell them that Jeete is in Pakistan.

Jeete was wrong about Tara being held captive in Pakistan. Tara has been in India all along. Tara comes home after being missing for a few days. And when Tara finds out that Jeete is looking for him in Pakistan, Tara becomes furious and then alarmed. And you know what that means: Tara goes to Pakistan to find Jeete. And he steps right back into enemy territory, where Major General Iqbal is waiting for him.

None of this is spoiler information, since the trailer for “Gadar 2” gives away about 90% of the plot for this substandard film. Patel, who had a prominent role as Sakina in “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha,” is reduced to being a stereotypical “worried wife at home” supporting role in “Gadar 2.” The movie becomes a father-son rescue/revenge story that is poorly staged amid the idiotic plot.

“Gadar 2” also copies the romance story from “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha.” During the time that Jeete is in Pakistan, he meets and falls in love with a Pakistani woman named Muskaan (played by Simrat Kaur), who finds out that Jeete is really an Indian citizen when he tells her the reason why he entered Pakistan with a false name and fake passport. And so, “Gadar 2” rehashes the “forbidden love” storyline that was in “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha.” The acting performances in “Gadar 2” are not impressive.

One of the worst things about “Gadar 2” is how the movie drags on and on with one ridiculous scenario after another. In fight scenes, there are plenty of chances for Major General Iqbal to immedately kill Tara and/or Jeete, but instead he just sneers and taunts. And then later, Major General Iqbal tells his men how much he wants to kill this Tara and Jeete. Tara is able to fight off dozens of armed soldiers with just a sledgehammer, his signature weapon. Yes, it’s that type of movie.

“Gadar 2” might satisfy viewers who are looking for bombastic and shallow entertainment to pass the time. (And it’s a lot of time, because this very noisy but empty movie is 150 minutes long, which is too long for its very flimsy plot.) Anyone who is expecting this sequel to have an interesting story needs to look elsewhere. There was a 22-year-gap between the releases of “Gadar: Ek Prem Katha” and “Gadar 2.” Was it worth the wait? Absolutely not.

Zee Studios released “Gadar 2” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on August 11, 2023.

Review: ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ (2023), starring Lily James, Shazad Latif, Shabama Azmi and Emma Thompson

June 7, 2023

by Carla Hay

Shazad Latif and Lily James in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” (Photo by Robert Viglasky/StudioCanal SAS and Shout! Studios)

“What’s Love Got to Do With It?” (2023)

Directed by Shekhar Kapur

Some language in Urdu with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in London and briefly in Pakistan, the romantic comedy/drama film “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” features a white and Pakistani cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A white British documentary filmmaker, who is cynical about love and committed relationships, does a documentary about her close male Pakistani British friend having an arranged marriage, and she struggles with admitting that she might actually want him for herself. 

Culture Audience: “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” will appeal primarily to people who like capably acted romantic movies where friends could turn into lovers.

Pictured from left to right: Pazika Baig, Mim Shaikj, Iman Boujelouah, Shabana Azmi, Shazad Latif and Jeff Mirza in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” (Photo by Robert Viglasky/ StudioCanal SAS and Shout! Studios)

“What’s Love Got to Do With It?” gets its title from the hypothetical question about what is really the key to a successful marriage. Are compatibility and respect more important than love, in order for a marital union to last? This romantic comedy/drama follows a very predictable formula, but the engaging lead performances by Lily James and Shazad Latif make the movie watchable. It’s a rare Western-studio film that explores the South Asian culture of arranged marriages.

Directed by Shekhar Kapur and written by Jemima Khan, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” (which takes place in London and briefly in Pakistan) is a mixed bag of a film that has dialogue that is sometimes witty, sometimes cringeworthy. The movie’s perspective of contrasting cultures keeps everything from sinking into forgettable blandness. Within the first 15 minutes of the film, it’s all very easy to predict how it will end.

In the meantime, most of the characters have enough appeal to be interesting but not enough uniqueness to be outstanding. A movie about two longtime best friends who could end up being lovers usually makes these two would-be lovers have opposite personalities. That’s certainly the case with documentarian Zoe Stephenson (played by James) and her longtime best friend Kazim “Kaz” Khan (played by Latif), who is a medical doctor.

Zoe and Kaz have known each other ever since their childhoods, when Zoe’s family (who are native Brits) and Kaz’s family (who are mostly Pakistani immigrants) used to be neighbors. Kaz is 32, and Zoe is about the same age. Zoe is impulsive, sometimes tactless, and has a messy love life. Kaz likes to plan ahead, is very diplomatic, and usually has stable relationships with the women he dates.

Zoe’s parents got divorced when Zoe was a child because her father left the family to be with a younger woman. Zoe’s mother Cath Stevenson (played by Emma Thompson) is still bitter about it. And although Zoe doesn’t really like to admit it, Zoe has also been negatively affected by the divorce, because she doesn’t think having a loving and committed relationship is going to happen to her.

Zoe is very close to her sister Helena (played by Alice Orr-Ewing), who is not as cynical about love and commitment as Zoe is. Helena and her husband Harry (played by Peter Sandys-Clarke) have two children together: Lily (played by Grace Askew) and Maud (played by Lolly Askew), who are about 7 to 9 years old. Zoe sometimes babysits her nieces, whom she adores. The movie uses a narrative technique of Zoe telling fairytales to Maud and Lily. The fairytales are really based on what Zoe is currently going through in her love life.

Kaz has two happily married siblings. His brother Farooq Khan (played by Mim Shaikh) is in an arranged marriage to Yasmin Khan (played by Iman Boujelouah), who is also of Pakistani heritage. Kaz’s sister Jamila (played by Mariam Haque) is married to a white Brit named David (played by Michael Marcus) in a non-arranged marriage. The parents of Kaz are well-meaning but domineering Zahid Khan (played by Jeff Mirza) and Aisha Khan (played by Shabana Azmi), who are also in an arranged marriage. Zahid’s mother Nani Jan Khan (played by Pakiza Baig) lives with Zahid and Aisha.

The Khan family is very close to each other, for the most part. The biggest rift in the family is that Zahid and Aisha do not approve of Jamila being married to someone who isn’t Muslim. Zahid and Aisha are also upset because Jamila did not take their advice to have an arranged marriage. As a result, Jamila has become estranged from the rest of the family.

The beginning of “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” shows the Khan family at a traditional Pakistani wedding, with Zoe and Cath also in attendance. At the moment, Zoe is feeling lovelorn because she hasn’t had any luck finding true love. She tells Kaz that at this point in her life, she’d be happy to settle for someone she likes instead of a grand love affair: “Someone I could commit to watching a whole TV series would be nice.”

And then, Kaz surprises Zoe with the news that he’s agreed to his parents’ wishes to get an arranged marriage to someone whom he hasn’t met yet. Kaz doesn’t like to call it an “arranged marriage.” He prefers to call it an “assisted marriage.” Zoe isn’t happy about this news because she thinks it’s a big mistake for Kaz to be in this type of marriage. She says out loud to him that she thought he had more independence to make his own decisions on whom to marry.

Shortly after getting this news, Zoe has a meeting with two movie producers named Olly (played by Alexander Own) and Sam (played by Ben Ashenden), two fast-talking filmmakers who have a “film bros” attitude tinged with sexism. Olly and Sam tell Zoe that they’re not moving forward with her pitch to do a documentary about honor killings. Sam and Olly think the subject matter is too depressing and not something that they think a woman filmmaker should do.

Zoe is desperate to get financing for her next project, so she impulsively tells Olly and Sam that her next documentary will be about arranged marriages, with her friend Kaz as the main subject. She also spontaneously thinks of the documentary’s title: “Love Contractually,” in a cheeky nod to the title of the 2003 romantic dramedy “Love Actually.” Olly and Sam like this idea and give the go-ahead to Zoe to do the movie.

Zoe lies and says that Kaz and his family have agreed to be in the documentary. Luckily for her, she quickly persuades Kaz and his family to do the documentary by promising them that she will be respectful of their Pakistani and Muslim customs. Kaz is reluctant at first, but he changes his mind when Zoe convinces him that she will make everyone look good. And as soon as she makes this promise, you just know that something will go very wrong.

“What’s Love Got to Do With It?” then goes back and forth between showing Zoe working on the documentary and trying unsuccessfully to find her next boyfriend. Cath, who has a dog named Barney, asks Zoe to take Barney to a veterinarian named James (played by Oliver Chris), a nice guy who just happens to be an eligible bachelor. It’s all a matchmaking setup from Cath. Zoe resists it at first, but she eventually agrees to date James out of sheer loneliness and desperation.

Meanwhile, Zoe gets more irritable as Kaz’s wedding date gets closer. Kaz’s bride-to-be is a 22-year-old aspiring human rights attorney named Maymouna (played by Sajal Ali), who is seemingly quiet and reserved. Kaz and Maymouna like each other, even though their conversations are awkward, as they get to know each other better. Kaz doesn’t quite understand why Zoe isn’t very happy that he’s getting married. You know where this is all going, of course.

To the movie’s credit, “What’s Love Got to Do With It” doesn’t portray the principal characters as ideal human beings. Zoe is not a perfectly likeable heroine. She’s got some big flaws, including having horrible judgment when it comes to dating, as well as a tendency to let her pride get in the way of being honest about her feelings.

Zoe’s mother Cath can be very prickly and difficult. Cath also has a racist side, such as in a scene where Cath privately tells Zoe that Cath is amazed that Kaz’s Pakistani family is sophisticated because the family is Pakistani. As for Kaz, his main personality flaws are his stubbornness and his reluctance to admit to his mistakes. Kaz’s tendency to be a people pleaser sometimes leads him to be deceptive in ways that can hurt people, including himself.

“What’s Love Got to Do With It?” doesn’t clutter up the movie with too many characters, but parts of the film lack focus, such as when it goes off on a tangent by showing some of the things going on in the marriage of Helena and Harry. Asim Chaudhry has a brief but hilarious supporting role as Mohammad “Mo” Bagri, a London-based matchmaker whose specialty is matchmaking for people of South Asian heritage. He has a company called Mohammad Bagri’s Matrimonial Bureau that is featured in Zoe’s documentary, because the Khan family is a client.

Although some of the characters occasionally come close to being caricatures, the principal characters (the Kaz’s family and Zoe’s family) all retain realistic qualities. “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” benefits from having a talented cast that can portray these characters with a certain level of believability. James and Latif have good-enough chemistry, but it’s not great. Thompson, as Zoe’s mother Cath, is always a delight to watch, even when she’s portraying a character who says and does off-putting things.

What isn’t as believable is some of the inevitable, contrived mush that gets crammed into the latter part of the movie, in order to deliver the resolutions that most audiences expect for this type of romantic film. “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” shows flashes of clever satire, such as in how Olly and Sam represent the smarmy side of the film industry. But in the end, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” succumbs to conventionality. Considering the subject matter, it’s not a surprise, but it’s handled capably enough for it to deliver some genuinely funny scenes amid the romantic fluff.

Shout! Studios released “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” in select U.S. cinemas on May 5, 2023. The movie was released on digital and VOD on May 26, 2023.

Review: ‘IB 71,’ starring Vidyut Jammwal, Vishal Jethwa, Faizan Khan and Anupam Kher

May 23, 2023

by Carla Hay

Vidyut Jammwal in “IB 71” (Photo courtesy of Reliance Entertainment)

“IB 71”

Directed by Sankalp Reddy

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1971, in India and Pakistan, the action film “IB 71” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A heroic Intelligence Bureau (IB) agent in India gets involved in saving an airplane hijacked by Kashmir terrorists and thwarting an airspace attack from a Kashmiri militant. 

Culture Audience: “IB 71” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching a very fabricated and ludicrous story about the real-life Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

Vishal Jethwa in “IB 71” (Photo courtesy of Reliance Entertainment)

Even by low standards of how ridiculous action movies can be, IB 71 mishandles its depiction of real-life espionage events in 1971. If you believe this movie, then you have to believe one IB agent has a superhero level of fight skills and defense plans. It’s a 117-minute movie that barely has enough substance for a seven-minute film. Most of “IB 71” looks like a sloppy combination of revisionist history and pandering fantasies about what led up to the real-life Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

Written and directed by Sankalp Reddy, “IB 71” (which is set in 1971) is yet another loud and bloated action film that quickly becomes repetitive because it doesn’t have much to say that’s interesting and just wants to show people fighting and yelling at each other. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) agent “hero” from India is named Dev Jammwal (played by Vidyut Jammwal), who has the personality of a spent bullet, but viewers are supposed to believe he’s extraordinary in how he can single-handedly avert an international crisis. The movie’s scenes go back and forth between India and Pakistan.

An early scene in the movie shows Dev at the Ministry of Defense headquarters in Delhi, India. Dev tells officials that the prison camps in India have had at least 10 runaways recently. Dev’s boss is N.S. Avasti (played by Anupam Kher), who is told that the Pakistanis are too busy kiling each other to be much of a threat to India. Dev has a sidekick IB partner named Sangram (played by Suvrat), who is as generic as generic can be.

Meanwhile, the IB is investigating Maqbool Bhat, a Kashmiri separatist, who is said to be planning some type of air raid in 10 days, with China being involved. (China has been helping guard East Pakistan.) N.S. Avasti and other IB officials are told that Maqbool Bhat only cares about gaining control in Kashmir, not India or Pakistan. And so begins the countdown for Dev to figure out what to do about this likely raid.

The movie then gets caught up in Dev being the hero for an airplane hijacking committed by two Kashmiri separatists who are followers of Maqbool Bhat, the leader of the National Liberation Front. The hijackers have taken a small plane (with about 20 to 25 passengers) hostage because they want 36 imprisoned National Liberation Front members to be set free from their prisons in India. These bumbling terrorists don’t know at the time of the hijacking that the airplane pilot is an IB agent named Dev Jammwal.

The hijackers are cousins Qasim Qureshi (played by Vishal Jethwa) and Ashfaq Qureshi (played by Faizan Khan), who make a lot of stupid mistakes. Qasim is the younger cousin. He looks like he’s barely out of high school. And he tries to make up for his youth and inexperience with arrogance and having a bad temper. Qasim gets very angry if anyone acts like he’s too young to be a leader. Ashfaq is a dimwitted follower who doesn’t really question what Qasim says or does.

“IB 71” just becomes a back-and-forth convoluted slog of Dev handling the hijacking and the countdown to the planned air raid, as if he’s the only person in charge of the IB. Everything about “IB 71” looks fake and ill-conceived. There’s really no point in watching bombastic junk like this unless you want to see terrible acting in a soulless and idiotic action film.

Reliance Entertainment released “IB 71” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on May 12, 2023.

Review: ‘Super Punjabi,’ starring Mohsin Abbas Haider, Saima Baloch, Iftikhar Thakur, Sana Fakhar, Nasir Chinyoti, Nawaz Anjum and Qaiser Piya

May 21, 2023

by Carla Hay

Nasir Chinyoti and Mohsin Abbas Haider in “Super Punjabi” (Photo courtesy of Eveready Pictures)

“Super Punjabi”

Directed by Abu Aleeha

Urdu with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Pakistan, the comedy film “Super Punjabi” features an all-Pakistani cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: An accountant who has been fired decides to get revenge on his former boss by robbing him with the help of a bungling thief. 

Culture Audience: “Super Punjabi” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching mindless comedies.

Sana Fakhar and Iftikhar Thakur in “Super Punjabi” (Photo courtesy of Eveready Pictures)

“Super Punjabi” starts off being a mildly amusing comedy, but the silly antics get more irritating until everything becomes a mess halfway through the movie. The plot of an accountant wanting to rob his ex-boss takes too long to start in this moronic film. “Super Punjabi” wastes a lot of time (more than two-thirds of the movie) showing the vengeful ex-employee and the bungling thief accomplice are sidetracked by a lot of silly antics.

Written and directed by Abu Aleeha, “Super Punjabi” (which takes place in an unnamed part of Pakistan) is a movie with a very weak plot and a lot of filler, including very hokey musical numbers with trite and forgettable songs. The movie begins by showing that accountant Sakhi Jutt (played by Mohsin Abbas Haider) seems to be living a charmed life. He and his wife Sahiba (played by Saima Baloch) have a loving and stable marriage. Sakhi also seems to be doing well in his career.

But Sakhi’s life falls apart when he gets fired for what he believes are unfair reasons. And then one day, Sakhi comes home around 2 p.m. to surprise Sahiba with a romantic gift of flowers. Sakhi sees the door to their bedroom is closed and a man’s shoes are outside the room. Sakhi can hear the voice of a man and Sahiba laughing. A jealous Sakhi can only think the worst: Sahiba must be having an affair with another man.

Of course, in a stupid movie like “Super Punjabi,” you can already predict that it’s probably be a misunderstanding. Instead of opening the door to find out what’s really going on, Sakhi angrily storms out of the house and disappears for two days without telling anyone where he is during those two days. During his “disappearance,” Sakhi decides he needs to get more money to save his marriage. And in order to do that, Sakhi decides he’s going to rob his wealthy ex-boss Zaid Gill (played by Iftikhar Thakur), who fired Sakhi.

On the first night that Sakhi has left his home, he gets carjacked by a bungling thief named Miskeen Butt (played by Nasir Chinyoti), who has no idea that Sakhi is about to take him on a wild ride. Sakhi tells Miskeen: “You picked the wrong guy on the wrong day.” Sakhi then proceeds to drive like a madman on the streets until Miskeen gives up his intention to steal the car.

Instead, Sakhi and Miskeen end up having dinner together at a cafe. Miskeen tells Sakhi that he wanted to steal the car because Miskeen’s wife and mother-in-law have been berating him and physically abusing him for not making enough money. Miskeen convinces Sakhi to give Miskeen a ride to a convenience store.

While they’re in the convenience store, Sakhi is shocked when Miskeen decides to commit an armed robbery of the store. The convenience store clerk who’s on duty pulls out a rifle. Shots are fired, a scuffle ensues, but Sakhi and Miskeen manage to escape with cash from the store. After Sakhi finds out that Miskeen has experience as a thief, he tells Miskeen that his ex-boss has a safe full of cash that they should rob. Miskeen reluctantly agrees to this plan.

Meanwhile, two criminals named Jazzy (played by Saquib Sumeer) and Jagoo (played by Adnan Shah Tipu) have been watching this near-debacle from the parking lot of the convenience store. They follow Sakhi and Miskeen into an empty lot and try to rob Sakhi and Miskeen of the money that Sakhi and Miskeen stole from the grocery store. More scuffling and shootouts occur.

“Super Punjabi” then becomes a repetitive bore of Sakhi and Miskeen trying to dodge Jazzy and Jagoo. There’s also a subplot involving another thief named Maujoo (played by Nawaz Anjum), who wants the money in the safe too. Zaid has a trophy wife named Madam Zara (played by Sana Fakhar) who has a role in this crime conspiracy. And, of course, an unimaginative movie like “Super Punjabi” has an incompetent police officer named Waheed (played by Qaiser Piya), who is the main investigating officer.

The acting in “Super Punjabi” is almost as bad as the movie’s screenplay and direction. The characters in the movie are hollow and annoying. There’s also a lot of choppy film editing that makes “Super Punjabi” look like it was made by amateurs with a sizeable production budget. The comedy in “Super Punjabi” often falls flat. And the action scenes just look idiotic. “Super Punjabi” is a mindless film in every sense of the word, because it’s the type of junk that viewers will quickly forget if they have the misfortune of seeing it.

Eveready Pictures released “Super Punjabi” in select U.S. cinemas and in Pakistan on May 12, 2023.

Review: ‘Money Back Guarantee’ (2023), starring Marhoom Bilal, Mirza Gohar, Shayan Khan, Kiran Malik, Mani, Jan Rambo and Mikaal Zulfiqar

April 30, 2023

by Carla Hay

Marhoom Bilal, Shayan Khan, Mikaal Zulfiqar, Kiran Malik, Jan Rambo and Mirza Gohar in “Money Back Guarantee” (Photo courtesy of Zashko Films)

“Money Back Guarantee” (2023)

Directed by Nabeel Qureshi

Urdu with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in Pakistan, the action comedy film “Money Back Guarantee” features a predominantly Pakistani cast (with some white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Six financially desperate people conspire to commit a bank robbery, but their plans run into unexpected problems, including a power struggle between two bankers. 

Culture Audience: Money Back Guarantee” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching an action comedy with a jumbled storyline and bad acting.

Mani and Shaniera Akram in “Money Back Guarantee” (Photo courtesy of Zashko Films)

“Money Back Guarantee” tries so hard to cram in several plot detours and wacky antics, it all adds up to a tangled heap of sloppy filmmaking. It’s a bizarre bank robbery caper that fumbles the comedy and the action. The story is witless, the performances are irritating, and the film editing is terrible. The movie’s mediocre Donald Trump impersonator quickly becomes a tired gimmick.

Written and directed by Faisal Qureshi, “Money Back Guarantee” (which takes place in an unnamed city in Pakistan) has a not-very-original concept of bungling amateur criminals in their quest to rob a bank. Instead of crafting a suspenseful and/or funny story, the movie gets caught up in trying to make things look weird and incoherent. Many viewers will feel completely disconnected from the story because the characters in the movie don’t act like how real human beings would act.

Six friends/acquaintances, who are having money problems and feel like they have been mistreated by society, decide to join forces and rob a powerful financial institution called Pak Bank. These would-be criminals are Munda Punjabi (played by Marhoom Bilal), Nawaz Sindhi (played by Mirza Gohar), Ilyas Kashmir (played by Shayan Khan), Sanam Baloch (played by Kiran Malik), Christian Bail (played by Jan Rambo) and Irfan Pathan (played by Mikaal Zulfiqar). They come up with various schemes to rob the bank—none of which would work in the real world.

For example, the six robbers decide to “disguise” themselves as “exterminators” and try to walk right into a bank vault together. But they don’t look like exterminators. They’re dressed entirely in black combat gear and are openly carrying guns. They look more like a tactical S.W.A.T. team. But these idiots think that because they have gas masks, they can fool people into thinking that they’re exterminators. This is what’s supposed to pass as “comedy” in this mindless movie.

Meanwhile, this robbery is being planned in the midst of a ruthless power struggle between Pak Bank president Akram (played by Wasim Akram) and a bank manager named Bux (played by Fawad Khan), who are in a campaign election against each other. Other characters in the movie include Akram’s arrogant right-hand man G.A. Muhajir (played by Mani), a somewhat ditzy reporter named Bella (played by Shaniera Akram) and Trump (played by Syed Shafaat Ali), a character who is a demanding, greedy and incompetent egomaniac in his business dealings with Pak Bank.

The movie has a lot of shouting and running around that don’t amount to anything but just dragging out the story and going off on distracting tangents. “Money Back Guarantee” also has too many stupid and over-used gags, such as characters getting lost or mistaken identities. The Trump character wears an ill-fitting blond wig and spouts a lot of corny and not-very-funny lines of dialogue.

“Money Back Guarantee” was originally supposed to be released in 2020, when Trump was president of the United States. Released in 2023, “Money Back Guarantee” just looks outdated with the Trump jokes, which don’t have as much impact in the movie, since Trump is no longer the U.S. president. The bank robbery antics and the bank executive feuding just get increasingly vapid and annoying. The entire movie is a poorly conceived mess and will test the patience of anyone who has tolerance for intentionally silly action comedies. “Money Back Guarantee” is an apt description of what viewers should get if they have the misfortune of wasting money to watch this failed attempt to be an entertaining heist movie.

Zashko Films released “Money Back Guarantee” in select U.S. cinemas and in Pakistan on April 21, 2023.

Review: ‘Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad,’ starring Fahad Mustafa and Mahira Khan

July 28, 2022

by Carla Hay

Fahad Mustafa in “Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad” (Photo courtesy of Hum Films and Eveready Pictures)

“Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad”

Directed by Nabeel Qureshi

Urdu with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Karachi, Pakistan, the action film “Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad” features an all-Pakistani cast representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A corrupt cop, who is romancing a virtuous veterinarian, has to decide what to do when the bribe money he has collected mysteriously begins to look like counterfeit bills. 

Culture Audience: “Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching an action comedy with a confused tone and a weak storyline.

Mahira Khan and Fahad Mustafa in “Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad” (Photo courtesy of Hum Films and Eveready Pictures)

The action flick “Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad” undermines its comedic intentions with preachy and melodramatic subplots in this bloated and jumbled story about a corrupt cop who takes bribes. The movie seems very confused about the tone it wants to have. The introduction of a mystical/supernatural element to the movie’s plot doesn’t fit well with the story at all.

Directed by Nabeel Qureshi, “Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad” (which means “Long Live Rules” in Urdu) was written by Quershi and Fizza Ali Meerza. The movie takes place in Karachi, Pakistan. The beginning of “Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad” shows a boy of about 8 or 9 years old named Gulab Mughal (played by Usman), who becomes rebellious troublemaker. Gulab’s father Munir Mughal (played by Faiq Khan) is an ethical police inspector. However, because of Munir’s low income, the family has financial problems.

Gulab doesn’t like that his family is considered lower-class when it comes to money. He thinks his father being a cop who won’t take bribes has a lot to do with the family’s financial woes. And so, Gulab doesn’t really respect his father, and Gulab becomes a juvenile delinquent who steals and causes mischief. From an early age, Gulab has decided that he never wants to worry about being poor.

The movie then fast-forwards 20 years later. Gulab (played by Fahad Mustafa) is now a police inspector who is very different from his father. That’s because Gulab takes bribes and often physically assaults or makes dangerous threats to people who don’t pay these bribes. Gulab’s widowed father Munir (played by Qavi Khan) is retired and very ashamed of Gulab being a corrupt cop.

One day, Gulab is called to the scene of a possible suicide attempt. A woman is standing on the ledge of a high-rise apartment building. She calls herself Sweety. After trying to get her to come down from the ledge, Gulab finds out that Sweety was not trying to kill herself but she was actually trying to rescue a cat from the ledge. She takes the cat and brings it safely inside.

It’s at this moment, viewers can tell this is the “meet cute” part of the story because of the way that Gulab seems attracted to her. After she gets off of the ledge, Sweety tells Gulab that her name really isn’t Sweety, but she won’t tell him her real name. Gulab later finds out that her real name is Jia (played by Mahira Khan), and she is a veterinarian, who is passionate about animal rights and has high ethical standards.

Through a series of circumstances, Jia and Gulab see each other again after he comes into possession of her lost phone. Jia plays hard to get when Gulab shows a romantic interest in her, but eventually she and Gulab begin dating each other. She doesn’t know at first that he’s a corrupt cop. It’s very easy to predict whether or not she will eventually find out.

“Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad” starts to get ridiculous when there’s a major plot development about how the image of Muhammad Ali Jinnah (founder of Pakistan) starts to disappear from the rupee bills that Gulab has in his bribery stash. This mysterious change has to do with Munir dying with the heartbroken belief that his son Gulab never respected Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The bills then look counterfeit, which causes all sorts of problems when Gulab tries to spend the money.

“Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad” just becomes a series of convoluted scenes of Gulab dealing with his bribery money problems and facing a moral dilemma over whether or not he could continue to be a corrupt cop. “Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad” has supporting characters that are mostly portrayed as bumblers, dull people or irredeemable villains. They include Ronaq Ali (played by Jawed Sheikh), who is Gulab’s sidekick co-worker; Babar Jilani (played by Mehmood Aslam), who is deputy inspector general of Sindh Police and Gulab’s unethical boss who collects bribes too; and Rana Kamran (played by Nayyar Ejaz), a corrupt politician.

In between the musical numbers and silly-looking action scenes, Gulab and Jia have a very predictable romance story arc when a “good girl” falls for a “bad boy” who might have a chance at redeeming himself. There’s nothing in this movie that is innovative or clever. “Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad” also has a ludicrous subplot about a lion on the loose. At 142 minutes, “Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad” is also too long for a movie that doesn’t have much substance. Even if the movie were 90 minutes are less,

Hum Films and Eveready Pictures released “Quaid-e-Azam Zindabad” in select U.S. cinemas and in Pakistan on July 8, 2022.

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