Romeo Akbar Walter (RAW) Review: A Spy Thriller that Has as Much Suspense As a Delhi Capitals IPL Match

Bollywood

Romeo Akbar Walter (RAW) Review: A Spy Thriller that Has as Much Suspense As a Delhi Capitals IPL Match

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

After last year’s Satyameve Jayate and Parmanu, Robbie Grewal’s Romeo Akbar Walter, aka RAW is John Abraham’s latest effort in proving to the world that he is basically Akshay Kumar with cheekbones. Like his two previous films, even Romeo Akbar Walter falls under what I like to call the “bharat mata ki jai” genre of filmmaking and what Kumar probably calls “cardio”.

In this borefest set in 1971, Abraham plays Rehmatulla Ali aka Romeo, a bank teller who gets recruited by Srikanth Rai (Jackie Shroff ), the chief of the Research and Analysis Wing to operate as an undercover agent in West Pakistan. The brief for his spy mission is simple: Cross the border, wear more kohl than Varun Dhawan in Kalaank to blend in, and pass intel that gives India an upper hand in liberating East Pakistan. Romeo manages to do all of this by just changing his name twice, giving his wardrobe a sudden makeover, changing his hairstyle thrice, and growing a beard. Clearly, Romeo Akbar Walter isn’t a film. It’s a fancy-dress competition.

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Abraham, a tremendously limited actor, plays his own wax statue in the movie.

Image Credits: Viacom18 Motion Pictures

Romeo enters Pakistan as Akbar Malik and joins the staff of a hotel in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. He then earns the trust of arms supplier, Isaq Afridi, who has close ties with the Pakistan Army. And in barely three months, manages to rise through the ranks and become Afridi’s right-hand man, privy to all crucial information that he dutifully passes on to India. For a film that is about a spy who is supposed to be racing against the clock with his life under constant threat, Romeo Akbar Walter has as much suspense as every IPL match played by Delhi Capitals.

On paper, Akbar is supposed to be a Muslim Indian spy in Pakistan, so you’d expect him to be all kinds of secretive. Except, Akbar, a really incompetent spy, spends all his energies and time in trying to get caught: He freely discusses his plans in public settings, reads secret messages tucked inside cigarettes and oranges in open markets, and remains blissfully unaware about Colonel Khan (Sikander Khan having fun) tapping all his phone calls. Abraham, a tremendously limited actor, plays his own wax statue in the movie. Such is his dedication to method inacting, that even a kissing scene isn’t enough to stop him from glaring with all the intensity of a mad cow.

The movie has a total of one chase scene, and even that is so inept that it’ll make you believe that apart from losing cricket matches and wars, Pakistanis also can’t run.

Yet the funniest part of Romeo Akbar Walter’s predictably boring script is Grewal assuming that the plot is just way too smart for Indian audiences. So he takes it upon himself to spoon feed every little twist in the movie. After every big reveal, characters sit around and explain that information in excruciating detail and then they go ahead and repeat it once again, in case you succeeded in tuning them out before. And, then there are the unrealistic plot twists that just conveniently unfold without any explanation.

When Colonel Khan takes Akbar in his custody and gives him a polygraph test to confirm that he is an Indian spy, Akbar lies through his teeth, but also passes the test. It’s only once he is let go after being tortured that a flashback informs us that Rai had already envisioned such a situation and taught him this trick before he left for Pakistan. Romeo Akbar Walter’s commitment to logic can then be best summed up in a scene when someone expresses his surprise at the turn of events and asks “How did this happen?”. All he is told is “Magic”. From time to time, the protagonists in Romeo Akbar Walter also seem to forget that it is an espionage thriller and spend way too much talking and very little time in chasing each other. The movie has a total of one chase scene, and even that is so inept that it’ll make you believe that apart from losing cricket matches and wars, Pakistanis also can’t run.

Patriotism is arguably the easiest emotion to conjure at a time when Indians are waiting to display their josh and Romeo Akbar Walter is so brainless that it can’t even figure out the key to that. As a result, the movie that runs for a stretched 144 minutes, has at least three different climaxes and neither is compelling to be taken seriously. Afterall, there’s only so much you can expect from a film whose biggest twist rests on Jackie Shroff having a “tip tip barsa pani” moment and which is convinced that Pakistan never had a sunny day in 1971.

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