Don 2: Film Review

Don 2
Shah Rukh Khan’s foray into bad-boy territory is all swagger with not much substance.  

The sequel to the Bollywood blockbuster lacks the original's light touch, but hardcore fans won't be disappointed.

Lithe, intelligent and stylish as hell, Indian superstar Shah Rukh Khan is always interesting to watch onscreen. Sometimes it takes effort, though, to appreciate Khan in a misstep such as Don 2.

Khan has reunited with top director-writer Farhan Akhtar in an attempt to capture the irresistible fun of Don, Akhtar’s 2006 thriller which was a remake of a much-loved 1978 film of the same name starring Amitabh Bachchan.

Based on the appeal of Khan, Akhtar and costars Priyanka Chopra and Boman Irani, Don 2 has become a hit in India and set a record as a top opener for an Indian film in the United States. 

In the first film, Khan played the double role of the ruthless crime lord Don as well as Vijay, a kind-hearted bumpkin who is recruited to impersonate him. That earlier film employed Khan’s bountiful charm to draw viewers in, and when it was revealed that Vijay was really Don (impersonating Vijay, impersonating Don), and with an added twist at the end, it all clicked. 

A great soundtrack by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy helped, too, with iconic songs such as “Main Hoon Don” and “Aaj Ki Raat,” which was later used in Slumdog Millionaire.

Anyone who missed Don will still be able to follow the sequel, since Akhtar peppers the film with flashbacks.

Technically, Don 2 is excellent, with good use of its locations in Germany and Malaysia. Kudos go to cinematographer Jason West (who also pops up in the role of a drug lord), returning composers Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, fight choreographer Swen Raschka and costume designer Jamail Odedra, who outfits Khan in a series of leather jackets and tailored wool ensembles that express the character’s urbanity and grace.

But the overly long Don 2 falls short on two key points -- the screenplay and Khan’s performance.

Akhtar, who proved his skill with the groundbreaking Dil Chahta Hai (2001) and has since gone on to a successful career as an actor, falls back on tired action film tropes: cigarette butts get tossed in slow motion, and every fistfight ends with a throwaway one-liner. Chopra plays a cop named Roma who used to love Vijay and even now, five years later, burns at the betrayal, but their relationship isn’t fully sketched out.

Despite strong performances by Chopra, Irani and guest star Om Puri, the biggest disappointment in the film is Khan’s characterization of Don. He’s able to perform the action scenes with panache and a deft physicality, but Khan can’t seem to play a pure villain without leering. The role demanded a much lighter touch.

Production companies: Excel Entertainment, Landmark Productions, Red Chillies Entertainment

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Boman Irani, Om Puri, Lara Dutta, Kunal Kapoor, Alyy Khan

Director: Farhan Akhtar
Screenwriter: Farhan Akhtar
Producers: Farhan Akhtar, Shah Rukh Khan, Ritesh Sidhwani

Executive producer: Miriam Joseph

Director of photography: Jason West

Production designer: Shashank Tere

Music: Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani, Loy Mendonsa

Costume designer: Jaimal Odedra

Editors: Ritish Soni, Anand Subaya

Unrated, 146 minutes