Laal Kaptaan, or the red coat in Hindi, is a well-directed tale of riveting moments from a man's life journey during which there is only one agenda: revenge.
But after the critically acclaimed NH10 and Manorama Six Feet Under, director Navdeep Singh's third major project fails to live up to its hype.
Set in the late 1800s, when the princely states were fighting the British East India Company, Laal Kaptaan stars Saif Ali Khan as bounty hunter Gossain. From an elite warrior's family, he is orphaned by his elder brother who double crosses the family in pursuit of becoming a leader. Now Gossain must seek retribution.
The premise for that revenge and the climax lack logic in their writing, however, while the moments of spark in this dark film only serve the purpose of entertaining briefly. With a run-time of two hours and 40 minutes, that impact diminishes further.
Some things, deliberately or unintentionally, work in protagonist Gossain's favour. He dons the garb of an ashes-smeared Naga Sadhu, having grown up as a teenaged orphan among monks who keep spears and swords. The foil works for him as he uses the weapons to reach his target along with guns acquired from the British.
Enter Deepak Dobriyal, as a nameless fellow bounty hunter. His on-screen presence is so brilliant that you yearn for more of him. Writer Sudesh Sharma has concentrated on one-liners that may not work for other characters, but they blend into Dobriyal's role so nicely. His mischievous greetings on each reappearance are particularly refreshing. "Howdodo," he says, his crude attempt at English rhyming with the cries of his character’s two Dobermans.
The script and casting is mixed. Manav Vij lends able support as the villain de piece brother and Zoya Hussain is a mistress slave, also representing a caste angle. That is offset by the overacting of Simone Singh as Vij's wife.
Then there is the most horrible of all casting in recent times: Sonakshi Sinha makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her appearance as a brothel worker and has one line. The character has waited for more than a year for Gossain to visit her so that she can tell him the whereabouts of his nemesis. That is some wait.
More red flags such as these abound. With a feast of three big movies lined up for release on Diwali, the money saved on going to see Laal Kaptaan may well be better spent watching them instead.