Director: Neeraj Pandey
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Danny Denzongpa, Anupam Kher, Taapsee Pannu, Rana Daggubati, Kay Kay Menon
Indian action cinema is getting bigger, better and bolder. Neeraj Pandey's Baby – partly filmed in Abu Dhabi, which is presented as the fictional Gulf country Al Dera – tells the story of an experimental ghost squad (named Baby because it's the first of its kind) that targets terrorists.
In time-honoured Bollywood fashion, the narrative features several foreign locales – Turkey, Nepal and Abu Dhabi, taking in everything from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to Marina Mall – but never loses focus of the plot.
Kumar excels in the lead role as a grim agent with a dry sense of humour, his comic timing well-honed after stints in successful Priyadarshan comedies such as Hera Pheri and Bhool Bhulaiyaa.
The rest of the squad comprises Danny Denzongpa as the chief, Anupam Kher as a grumpy tech expert, the hulking Rana Daggubati as the muscleman, and Taapsee Pannu as the vulnerable yet tough Priya, the unit’s fifth and only female member.
Kay Kay Menon is chilling as the bad guy – a man with an inscrutable gaze and deadly intent. Murali Sharma as the pretentious personal assistant of a politician provides the comic relief.
While it is full of explosive fight sequences that don't disappoint – Kumar isn't Bollywood's biggest action hero for nothing – Baby suffers in the second half from slow pacing and sloppy editing. Some of the chase scenes, for example, could have been shortened to break the monotony.
But perhaps the best thing about the thriller is the way it showcases the UAE capital (the cast and crew spent several weeks here last year, with twofour54 serving as the local production arm). In fact, there’s so much of Abu Dhabi in the film’s second half that, if you’re a resident, you might actually get a glimpse of your neighbourhood.
Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara also features prominently (as it did in 2014's Bang Bang!, the first Bollywood film to shoot here), and makes for a beautiful backdrop. And look for the unexpected visual of Etihad's newly acquired Airbus A380 in flight, dramatically silhouetted against a golden sun.
Even if you're not a fan of Kumar's brand of movies, Baby is worth a trip to the cinema, if only for the non-stop action and the Abu Dhabi panoramas.
• Baby opened in cinemas on Thursday, January 22. Read an interview with Akshay Kumar