OAKLAND, Calif. -- A lightweight yet engaging story of jealousy, passion and revenge between two rival brothers and the women who love them, "Race" catches the mood of the modern, cosmopolitan Indian with its effortless mix of Western-influenced music and international setting.

Distributor UTV Motion Pictures has released 116 prints of the film in the U.S., an optimistic move banking on positive word-of-mouth among overseas Indians who are tuned into its good reviews and robust boxoffice in India.

Ranvir (Saif Ali Khan) is an Indian multimillionaire who owns a gigantic stable in Durban, South Africa, and makes his money raising and racing horses. It's the kind of role that Khan excels at: a decent man with a dashing scowl and a ruthless streak, capable of blowing to smithereens with a well-timed car bomb any who would betray him.

Ranvir has a girlfriend, Sonia (sultry Bipasha Basu); an adoring secretary, Sophia (Katrina Kaif); and a younger brother, Rajiv (Akshaye Khanna), who has a weakness for drink and an eye on his brother's millions. When Rajiv falls hopelessly in love with Sonia, Ranvir's reaction is unexpected. As the two men battle for her attention and the thought of a $200 million insurance payout looms, each character turns out to be not at all as he or she first seems. The intrigue is compounded when one of the brothers falls to his death.

After the intermission, the film takes a comical turn as a wily police inspector, Robert D'Costa (veteran character actor Anil Kapoor), investigates the death while dispensing wisecracks and gnawing on a stalk of sugarcane. A cameo by comedian Johny Lever, as an overworked marriage bureau clerk called upon to marry two of the characters, adds a typically Bollywood dose of incongruous hilarity.

Helmed by the brother team of Abbas and Mastan Burmawalla, who are known as two of India's top thriller directors, "Race's" plot zigzags from point to point, but Shiraz Ahmed's screenplay never lags.

Technically, the film is an unnerving mix. Three of the four leads wear unconvincing wigs or hairpieces, and most of the women's costumes are spectacularly tacky. The film was not shot in sync sound, so the obvious dubbing of the actors' voices stands out. Action scenes, lead by India's best action director, Allan Amin, are top-notch.

"Race" was shot in Durban and Dubai, with only a few interior scenes shot in a Mumbai studio, and its lead character is more comfortable in an Armani suit than a kurta. Pritam Chakraborty's songs and Salim-Suleiman's background music owe more to rap than to Indian influences, and none of the three heroines would be caught dead in a sari.

UTV Motion Pictures
Tips Music Films
Directors: Abbas Burmawalla, Mastan Burmawalla
Screenwriter: Shiraz Ahmed
Producers: Kumar S. Taurani, Ramesh S. Taurani
Director of photography: Ravi Yadav
Songs: Pritam Chakraborty
Lyrics: Sameer
Background score: Salim-Suleiman
Costume designer: Anaita Shroff Adajania
Editor: Hussain Burmawala
Ranvir Singh: Saif Ali Khan
Rajiv Singh: Akshaye Khanna
Sonia: Bipasha Basu, Sophia: Katrina Kaif
Robert D'Costa: Anil Kapoor
Mini: Sameera Reddy
Running time -- 155 minutes
No MPAA rating

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