Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai — we’ll just call it Radhe — starts off with a confession: on-screen text tells us the film is inspired by the South Korean film The Outlaws (2017).
“Inspired” may the last word in one’s mind when they see Radhe. In fact, if this is an official remake of The Outlaws (I don’t know what “inspired” really means), then the Indian producers ought to pay back three times over for defamation.
Radhe, probably a continuation of Salman Khan’s hit Wanted (2009), is mostly a bargain-basement hack-job of The Outlaws. A gang of three dangerous ruffians — one of them the usually dependable Randeep Hooda, playing a long-haired, ex-mob enforcer named Rana — ride into Mumbai to smash the hand off a runaway debtor.
The three men see Mumbai through the eyes of any other small-town hopeful: for them it’s a land of growth and opportunity. Since being evil is their natural calling, they promptly take over two rival gangs who were just scared into peaceful terms by the newly re-appointed power-cop Radhe (Khan) — a man so blindingly fast that his entry in the film is a literal blur.
Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai is a hot mess
In his big entry, Radhe spurts past a ruffian standing in a 20th-floor room of building by smashing through the glass, grabbing a shard in his mouth, spitting it in the direction of the oblivious chump, and slightly slitting a part of his cheek.
The ruffian only realises the cut once a drop of blood falls on his phone. Radhe, meanwhile, has taken care of the rest of the gang members by bashing them in a would-be cool, improbable action sequence (forget the laws of physics and common sense, how can a man do long fisticuffs with people scattered all over the room at the same time — he ain’t no Flash).
Radhe, however, never exhibits this speed and agility again. His (and Salman’s) main weapons are the scowls and the growls that keep people in check. With his eyes in perpetual slits, he could be a stand-in for Eastwood…only, he’s not… by a long shot.
Radhe’s newly assigned boss (Jackie Shroff) is a buffoon and, as if by luck — and cliched screenwriting — the hero falls for the boss’s little sister, Diya (the scantily-clad Disha Patani), who is mostly a poster-girl for songs, and a few dumb but laughable jokes.
“If I had a sister, I would name her Na-Diya,” Radhe quips after seeing her for the first time — and he has good reason for it. The girl just can’t stand the heat; her attire is mostly short shorts and flimsy tops with drooping necklines, and she has a few, probably, hastily written, daft lines of dialogues (Patani can’t act, so I guess that’s for the better).
While Radhe wastes his screen time, Rana takes over the turf with his two men. The two gangs, mostly loveable criminals, are no match. As Rana pushes drugs into school districts, he faces Radhe and the police a number of times, but flees easily when things get too hot.
Hot might be the right word too, because Radhe is a hot mess.
Badly cinematographed, colour-graded with eye-stabbing contrast levels, and choppy, at times amateurish, edits, the film sets the quality control bar so low that bad Pakistani filmmakers might just say: hey, maybe we can do this! To them, I say: Sir, don’t you dare.
Despite a few comedic jabs here and there, Radhe is not a film one should look up to.
Khan, Shroff and Patani need to go back to film school, or at the least get acting coaches. They’re simultaneously relaxed and unmotivated when acting in either serious or comedic scenes (well, at least they’re consistent in what they’re doing). Prabhu Deva, the returning director from Wanted and Dabangg 3, is just as sloppy. Even his choreography is stilted.
In comparison, The Outlaws feels like a fresh, kinetic, tonally-adjusted film with the right balance of emotions. When Ma Dong-seok (Train to Busan) — the character Radhe stands-in for — barters a deal between gangs, or stops petty criminals in Seoul’s Chinatown, you immediately feel that he has a connection with the people, and even the streets. The actor, brilliant in his deliberately constricted performance (because that’s who the character is), doesn’t need to spell things out. The scenes, and how they’re handled, do that for us.
The outlaws (Yoon Kye-sang, whose screen-variation Hooda plays), are desperate and dangerous, because that’s what criminals are. Also, no one needs wire-works for action sequences in the South Korean film… or badly composited helicopters (Red Chilies VFX, what are you doing?!).
Technically, they’re the same film, often beat by beat. The Indian one is a slipshod, bungled discredit to a far better original. Not only does Radhe sully The Outlaws’ name, it also nearly kills one’s love for Wanted.
Released on Zee5, Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai is rated U/A — audiences cautioned. Salman Khan is as bad as the film.
Originally published in Dawn, ICON, May 23rd, 2021