KICK. Director: Sajid Nadiadwala. Players: Salman Khan, Jacqueline Fernandez, Nawazuddin Siddique, Randeep Hooda, Mithun Chakraborty. Music: Himesh Rehammiya, Yo Yo Honey Singh. Hindi w/ Eng. Sub-titles (UTV).

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Producer Nadiadwala has amassed an impressive array of box office hits, includingJeet (1996), Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004),Hey Babyy (2007) and the knock-out Housefulfranchise. Nadiadwala usually opts for either Salman Khan or Akshay Kumar for leads. For his directorial debut, Nadiadwala roped in Khan for Kick, a remake of Surender Reddy’s Telugu language 2009 hit of the same name. Brawny, not always coherent and often loud,Kick has just enough muscle to please Khan’s diehard fan, and not much else.

Dipping into the recent global trend in making, remaking and re-imagining successful big screen super hero formula entries on an ever-grander scale, Kick borrows from Hrithik Roshan in Krrish 3 and Aamir Khan in Dhoom 3. Chetan Bhagat’s script starts out promisingly enough. Shaina (Fernandez) and Inspector Himanshu (Hooda) share life experiences during a train ride, reflect on a character both of them have crossed paths with—the hard-to-pin-down, ne’er do well Devi Lal Singh (Khan).

Now betrothed to each other, Shaina and Inspector Himanshu soon find that their run-ins with Devi Lal, who judges all things big and small with the degree of “Kick”—thrills—they offer, may not be over. For Shaina, Devi Lal’s return gives her pause in the path of romance. For Inspect Himanshu, Devi Lal may be chief suspect in the cop’s search for Devi Lal’s masked-avenger alter-ego Devil, suspected in a string of very high stakes Robin Hood-style robberies that appear to target a seemingly un-related group of industrialists and philanthropists led by Siddique’s amoral usurper.

Kick as content must be stacked up against its afore-mentioned super hero counterparts Krrish 3 and Dhoom 3. And that is where the staging appears spotty. Unlike the polished action sequences of Krrish 3 and Dhoom 3, Kickappears implausibly jagged and, put simply, made up. At least some of the success of the competition was due to Aamir Khan (Dhoom 3) and and Hrithik Roshan’s acting chops—the pain that their characters had to endure and which led them to take on alter-egos appeared far more convincing.

Since so much of the selling of the Kick is premised on it being an action-comedy, and given that the action sequences are flat, the comedy must step up. To cut to the chase, Khan’s comic timing here is not as fluid as it was inDabangg, his best movie to date. Khan’s limited histrionic bandwidth may be better suited to a brawny village constable single-handedly avenging the murder of his parents than a super hero who can carry the mass of a heavier, broader social burden. That is augmented by fact that Khan does not share the same onscreen chemistry with Fernandez in Kick as he did with Sonakshi Sinha inDabangg.

On the other hand, in a country where the average Joe often feels overwhelmed by the sheer volume of red tape that must be negotiated as part of a daily grind, the concept of a super hero who helps equalize the odds in favor of an increasingly vocal middle class may have odd appeal. The fact that Devil’s nemesis are made up of characters that stand in for social and business power brokers—hospital administrators, bank managers, religious organizers—may boost that perspective.

That attribute may also have aided in a bigger than big Box Office for Kick. Within three weeks of a huge July-end global rollout, Nadiadwala’s movie raced up the charts to become the fourth-highest grossing Hindi movie of all-time, behind only Dhoom 3, Krrish 3 and Chennai Express. Not bad for a movie that has no signature song tie-ins similar to “Malang” or the title track from Chennai Express. The Kick soundtrack’s biggest song, Yo Yo Honey Singh’s “Yaar Naa Miley,” comes across as a dark Halloween video on steroids. Kick may have Salman Khan at his super hero best. That best, however, lands somewhere between warm and, alas, tepid.

EQ: C

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