Two of Hindi cinema's most enduringly popular contemporary superstars--and two of the most impossibly gorgeous people on the planet--Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai have finally, after years of fan demand, finally been paired on screen in Dhoom:2, and the results improbably exceed even the most hopeful of expectations. As, respectively, mysterious thief and master of disguise known only as "Mr. A" and partner in crime Sunehri, Roshan and Rai live up to the movie's title, practically combusting off the screen from the first moment their ever-striking pairs of eyes meet. There have been many memorable romantic pairings in Hindi cinema, but what Roshan and Rai share here goes a few steps beyond mere romantic rapport to a far rawer, naughtier, lustier electricity. If they turn up the heat by merely exchanging eye-fucking glances, imagine just how much this dynamic duo, arguably the best male and female dancer working in Bollywood today, scorches the screen and the entire cinema hall when they finally get a chance to burn the floor in tandem.
What, you thought this was the second chapter of the continuing adventures of no-nonsense cop Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) and bumbling sidekick Ali (Uday Chopra)? Yes, they're both still here, with former mechanic and motorcycle racer Ali (whose grating antics have mercifully been dialed down a notch from the first film) becoming a cop himself in the time frame between films, and together with the help of another law enforcement agent (Bipasha Basu, adding to the glam quotient while bringing believable toughness), they try to put a stop to Mr. A's worldwide string of high-profile heists. But their presence almost comes off like action formula formality, for the bulk of returning director Sanjay Gadhvi and writer Vijay Krishna Acharya's attention lies squarely with Mr. A and Sunehri, or more specifically Roshan and Rai. Mr. A and Sunehri's relationship takes its twists and turns, and the two stars bring their acting A-game whenever the script calls for it, even if the script annoyingly makes Sunehri constantly refer to herself in the third person. But beyond the technical, the two are clearly energized both working opposite each other and getting a rare chance to play the bad guys in a blockbuster. Roshan's larger than life charisma has never been more smartly applied than to the part of a legendary criminal, and his natural athleticism serves him well in the many stunt set pieces he carries. Rai clearly relishes the femme fatale role, with the longtime sex symbol completely owning her sensual, erotic presence on film in a way she never quite has before (the standout number "Crazy Kiya Re", with sultier-than-ever vocals by Sunidhi Chauhan, is like the Bollywood equivalent of Janet Jackson memorably coming out of her demure shell in the classic "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" music video).
This focus shift falls in line with Gadhvi and Acharya's clear intent to go not only bigger and more spectacular than the original film but also glossier, glitzier, and more glamorous. In a sense, it's like the difference between The Fast and the Furious (the first film's clear spiritual forebear) producer Neil Moritz's slick but still somewhat gritty actioners and the star-driven sheen and proudly in-your-face bombast of the Jerry Bruckheimer oeuvre--and the thrills have grown in direct proportion, effectively upping the ante in every way from its predecessor. The action and stunts are more elaborate, with the variety of locales across the globe add to the suspense and excitement. With Roshan and Rai on board, the dance sequences (again to tunes composed by Pritam, who cranks out an even more memorable soundtrack) are naturally taken to a new level of dazzling showmanship right from the opening titles. Also accordingly, plot logic and moreover any semblance of realism may take an even more distinctly secondary station in this film to these more immediate, visceral pleasures.
And, frankly, that's how it should rightly be with any film named Dhoom:2. With all the beautiful people dancing up a storm to catchy beats, making big things go boom, and looking effortlessly cool while doing it all, this is pure popcorn escapist entertainment of the most guiltily irresistible order.