Wanted -- Film Review

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Bottom Line: Shirtless Salman Khan muscles his way into Bollywood history in stimulating masala thriller.

FREMONT, Calif. -- The pummeling starts five seconds into "Wanted," and doesn't let up for three hours, save a few breaks for flashy dance numbers and clever one-liners uttered with just the right amount of macho disdain by muscle-bound Salman Khan.

Enthusiastic word-of-mouth and a pumping soundtrack are likely to propel this Hindi thriller to blockbuster status in India and the U.S., where one local San Francisco audience erupted into spontaneous applause when Khan stripped down to his bare chest at the film's climax.

Radhey (Khan) is a ruthless hired killer with an impressive array of job skills. When you get killed by Radhey, you are well and truly killed: His victims get impaled, shot, disemboweled, thrown from heights and tossed from moving Mumbai express trains. But when he comes up against Mumbai's nastiest gangster, Gani Bhai (the smoldering Prakash Raj, star of "Kanchivaram"), and an odious police inspector (Mahesh Manjrekar), the three men's power struggles reach a crescendo.

The film marks a splashy directorial debut for Prabhudeva, India's top choreographer who has spent his career filling movie screens with eye-popping dance pieces. Each song in "Wanted" is even more spectacular than the last, employing literally hundreds of dancers and even featuring Prabhudeva himself in a dazzling cameo dance appearance (Anil Kapoor and Govinda make welcome, humorous cameos too).

It's clear Prabhudeva wanted to pack as many ideas as possible into his first film, which is a Hindi remake of a Tamil hit. So he dazzles the eye with quick zooms, massive and colorful displays of gore, and fillips such as a fight scene shot under strobe lights.

The pacing is brisk and even builds in pitch in the last half hour, when many other Hindi films lag or veer into absurdity. The powerful performances from Khan, Raj, Manjrekar and ingenue Ayesha Takia demonstrate Prabhudeva is one dancer who knows how to take the lead.

Opened: Friday, Sept. 18 (Sahara One Motion Pictures)
Cast: Salman Khan, Prakash Raj, Mahesh Manjrekar, Ayesha Takia, Vinod Khanna, Govind Namdeo
Director: Prabhudeva
Screenwriters: Shiraz Ahmed, Poori Jagannath
Producer: Boney Kapoor
Executive producers: Balraj Irani, Balraj Kapoor
Directors of photography: Nirav Shah, S. Sriram
Choreography: Prabhudeva, Raju Sundaram, Vaibhavi Merchant, Rajiv Surti
Production designer: Shyam
Music: Sajid-Wajid
Action director: P.D. Vijayan
Editor: Sanjay Sankla
Not rated, 155 minutes
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