New York -- Film Review

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OAKLAND -- In the aftermath of 9/11, more than 1,200 men, many of South Asian descent, were detained by U.S. authorities, according to the ACLU. Of these, more than 1,000 were released months and years later for lack of evidence.

Kabir Khan's brisk if formulaic thriller, "New York," takes a fictional look at the damaged lives of two such men and stands a good chance of earning respectable boxoffice numbers, as it is the first big Hindi film following Bollywood's two-month strike that recently ended.

It's 2001, and three inseparable college friends in New York, Samir (John Abraham), Omar (Neil Nitin Mukesh) and Maya (Katrina Kaif), enjoy sun-dappled afternoons and ecstatic slo-mo football games on the grass as the World Trade Center's twin towers gleam behind them. When the city reels, their friendship changes shape. Eight years later, Samir and Maya are married, with a son, while Omar is driving a taxi. The two men harbor a deep bitterness over the way America has treated them since 9/11, and one of them channels his rage into a terrorist plot.

Both model-turned-actor Abraham ("Water") and upcoming star Mukesh -- seemingly too pretty to portray characters in such gritty circumstances -- play their roles with charismatic performances and solid chemistry between them, though Kaif is lightweight as usual.

Irrfan Khan seems to reprise his "Slumdog Millionaire" role as a stern yet whimsical government officer convinced that one of the men is planning a terrorist attack. Yet it's a virtual unknown by the name of Nawazuddin who steals every scene as an Indian man seething with hatred for Americans who have humiliated him.

Kabir Khan deserves credit for illuminating the plight of such South Asian and Muslim men; one innocent character is stripped, shackled and subjected to waterboarding, blaring rock music and worse -- something one doesn't see every day in mainstream Hindi films.

Although the film is a routine thriller with few surprises, it deserves attention because its topic, even eight years after Sept. 11, is one that many South Asian Americans still take very seriously.

Opened: Friday, June 26 (Yash Raj Films)
Cast: John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Katrina Kaif, Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin, Samrat Chakrabarti, Rizwan Alvi, Obaid Kadwani
Director: Kabir Khan
Screenwriter: Sandeep Srivastava
Producer: Yash Chopra, Aditya Chopra
Executive producer: Aashish Singh
Director of photography: Aseem Mishra
Production designer: Norman Dodge
Costume designer: Rocky S
Action director: Sham Kaushal
Music: Pritam
Editor: Rameshwar S. Bhagat
Not rated, 157 minutes
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