GAME. Players: Abhishek Bachchan, Kangana Ranaut, Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill, Sarah-Jane Dias, Boman Irani. Music: Shankar Ehsaan Loy. Theatrical release (Eros/Excel)

Action thrillers thrive on quick pacing, fast draws of weapons, highest tech gadgetry, cutting edge editing, nail biting suspense, and come-hither song sequences. Game, the first of two Abhishek Bachchan releases in the month of April, has all these elements, wouldn’t you know it. It has a polished look. There is a story—of sorts. There is action galore. There is gadgetry and international murder-mystery. All the pieces together, alas, add up to far less than the sum of the parts. It is a chess match with too many (or too few, depending on perspective) players. How a movie with all the right elements can prove so unsatisfying may be the biggest mystery haunting this Game.

Four strangers receive a mysteriously invitation to the posh and remote Mediterranean island home/fortress owned by reclusive magnate Kabir Malhotra (Kher). There is Neil Menon (Bachchan), a nightclub owner from Istanbul, O.P. Ramsay (Irani), an Indian ex-pat dabbling in politics in Thailand, Vikram Kapoor (Shergill), a movie star from Mumbai and Tisha Khanna (Goswami), a criminial reporter from London. Like suspects in the board game CLUE, each of these four guests has a vital connection to the death of Malhotra’s daughter Maya (Dias)—a death that Malhotra wants investigated at all costs. To drive his point home, Malhotra invites international detective Sia Agnihotri (Ranaut) to keep an eye on the suspects in case they decide to escape.

Writer Farhan Akhtar (he also co-produced) has indeed done this homework—even though that may amount to merely rewinding through many hours of American TV crime shows.

True to its inspiration, and exactly as in any CSI:Miami or NCIS episode, we are made to think that the powers-that-be have unlimited resources to pour into every single murder investigation that comes their way. The international investigative agency that provides the policing of the central crime has huge, well-appointed offices at all key cities that just happen to coincide with geographical stops on the story line. The investigators catch planes at a moment’s notice, moving from London to Istanbul to Bangkok with time-shifting precision without even creasing their shirts.

The Mediterranean island-hopping and Turkish settings are exotically gorgeous, the song sequences are sexily choreographed, the histrionics are forceful and the narrative successfully keeps the central mystery under wraps until the very end. For all its taut posturing, however, there is a hollowness of conviction to just about anything major operating here. The humdinger to the plot, one that can only be summed up as a careless oversight, is failing to explain why Maya leaves Istanbul for Mumbai with so much fanfare and then is shortly thereafter found wandering the streets like an orphan. The rules of engagement here all point to Game as too much of a good thing.

EQ: C+

Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.

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