Yes, it's bigger than its predecessor of five years ago... Yes, it's slicker... But is it better? I would say, yes it is but just about! But before you think I am going into raptures about Don 2, let me add - I did not like the 2006 version at all as I think for all its style, it was a rather poor re-make of the 1978 classic and what's more the final twist, while leaving the ending opening for a sequel, actually negated the entire film till then. So Don 2, without the baggage of a cult film behind it, had it easy to beyond the earlier version. And admittedly, it is at times even a decent enough (if not very involving) watch but finally as a film, it falls short of 'being there'.
OK, so the Bollywood 'answer' to MI, Lethal Weapon 4 and the like is lavishly produced and mounted, well executed, has a high degree of technical polish, and the odd great action moments. It also has a leading man enjoying playing the 'baddie' after quite some time. But what it doesn't have is a clever enough plot, a cracking pace, enough edge of the seat moments, innovative twists and turns (the final twist can be seen coming a mile away), solid characterisations for the other characters and a foot tapping musical score - both songs in the film and the one with the end credits are disappointing reaffirming that Shankar - Ehsaan - Loy seem to have lost the plot for a while now. All this tells on the slow moving - at times even boring - first half and even if the film does pick up relatively in the second half with the robbery the entire film is centred around, it still leaves you with a sense of could-have-been-kickass feeling.
The script goes uneasily between wanting to be both Hollywood and Bollywood, so with Hollywood-style slickness we are made to endure some typical Bollywood situations - a jail naturally means a fight amongst the key inmates, inmates are actually poisoned and so don't have to pretend their stomach is paining (oh wait, this IS different!) for the escape route, and with the Western cool quotient (a hero who goes Touche!), there is over the top Bollywood dialoguebaazi as well spoken most self consciously. But the biggest problem really is the plotting. It is too simplistic centred around the one big robbery. It is far too convenient and as mentioned, not very imaginative - in particular, the actual heist sequence lacks any sort of tension. Let's just say Rififi or Topkapi it ain't. The 'romantic' moment between Roma and Don towards the end simply fails to work as it comes too late and without build up. Their earlier interactions needed to be far more dynamic to lead to this. And then the logical loopholes - Didn't Don have to go down to the vault in the basement? Why does he go up the elevator shaft then? And there are many others. Ah well...
The characterisations too are pretty cardboard-like outside of SRK. Priyanka Chopra is handicapped with an extremely sketchy role she can do nothing about. Incidentally, she is getting more and more 'lippier' with each film. Om Puri is wasted for the third time in a Farhan Akhtar film after Lakshya and the earlier Don, Kunal Kapoor is weak but pleasantly, Boman Irani finally returns to some sort of form in a substantial role while Lara Dutta is not bad at all in her brief role, actually making more of an impact than Piggy Chops. As for Hrithik's guest appearance...ah well again!
But above all, Don 2 is SRK's show so the entire attention has been focussed on him. And that's not really a bad thing. The actor clearly enjoys himself being free of an iconic performance this time and has the knack for smirking, sniggering and playing the baddie with elan even if he does get into ham territory at times but then that too is signature SRK. Needless to say, his fans have always loved it and will do so even here.
The cinematography, production design and some of the action all deserve a special mention as the film boasts of a high technical standard that lifts it a notch or two. But at the end of it all, a film has to have the ideal blend of content with style and here is where the film falls short, quite short.