'RAW' movie review: Sluggishly paced, John Abraham's spy thriller engages in bits
Maybe smart editing could have made 'RAW' an engaging watch.
Set in 1971, 'RAW - Romeo Akbar Walter' is the story of an Indian banker, Rehmat Ali aka Romeo (John Abraham), who is chosen by the RAW chief (Jackie Shroff) to go to Pakistan as a spy. The film covers the timeline when cross border tensions are at their peak which ultimately leads to the birth of a new nation, Bangladesh.
Leaving his mother behind, Romeo becomes Akbar Malik, assumes a new identity and migrates to Pakistan. What would Akbar do when his cover is blown and India refuses to take responsibility - would he choose to stay loyal or turn himself in? RAW is also the journey of Romeo assuming his last identity of Walter.
Countless espionage thrillers have been made in Bollywood in the past and 'Raazi' released in 2018 is probably what will top your mind. It is also possible that you would end up drawing comparisons between the two films and find John Abraham's attempt pale. But don't judge the film just yet.
What makes 'RAW' different is that in spite of a well-built actor like John Abraham, who has delivered action movies in recent past, the film doesn't involve in machoism or fake heroism. There are no unwanted action sequences, long chase sequences or the hero indulging in a fist fight or breaking into a dance number. Akbar as an undercover agent is any regular resident and doesn't draw unwanted attention to himself.
But this attempt to extremely tone down dramatics by director Robby Grewal also affects the film's engagement levels. What also works as a drawback is the lack of shock factor. By design, spy thrillers need to be edgy and make you apprehensive about our protagonist's next move. There aren't enough instances which make you jittery and the film's graph is almost static from beginning to the end. Some twists and turns could have helped the film from not ending so predictably.
With his last outings like Madras Cafe, Parmanu and Satyameva Jayate, patriotic films are a genre that John Abraham has been dabbling into and he moulds himself comfortably as a spy in 'RAW'. He morphs himself convincingly as he changes his identities and has a poker face for most of the screen time. But his performance could have been enhanced with a script with lesser loopholes and more importantly, better direction.
Jackie Shroff as the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) chief Shrikant Rai is stylishly dressed and gets the most screen time after our leading hero. Having been part of patriotic films himself, Shroff mouths his dialogues with a finesse that he has mastered, sans the jingoism.
Sikander Kher is back as ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) Col Khudabaksh Khan and makes an effort to leave an impression. Raghubir Yadav is Akbar's undercover colleague and appears to only lend emotional quotient in the film.
Leading lady Mouni Roy appears more inessential than her last Bollywood outing, Gold. She looks good but her presence doesn't have any real consequence to the narrative. In one redundant scene, the leading pair break into a romantic song and end it with an intimate moment, making you question if it was really needed.
Taking its own time to establish the characters, the film is sluggishly paced and may test your patience. Maybe smart editing could have made RAW an engaging watch.
Directed by: Robby Grewal
Cast: John Abraham, Sikander Kher, Raghubir Yadav, Jackie Shroff, Mouni Roy