I loved director Neeraj Pandey’s A Wednesday and was eagerly looking forward to his next. What could have been a better follow-up than a heist film inspired by real life events? An exciting subject backed by solid acting talent and I expected a good thriller. However, Special 26 left me feeling underwhelmed.
In the late 80s, a gang of four con-men Ajay (Akshay Kumar), Sharma (Anupam Kher), Iqbal (Kishore Kadam) and Joginder (Rajesh Sharma) followed a unique modus-operandi of carrying out fake raids posing as CBI or IT officials. Since most of these raids were carried out on politicians and businessmen with loads of black money, they were never reported and the con-men had no fear of getting caught. However, one fine day the CBI wakes up to the fake raids being carried out in their name and a competent officer Waseem Khan (Manoj Bajpayee) is put on their case. He teams up with Sub-Inspector Ranveer (Jimmy Sheirgill), who is a victim of the gang’s misdeeds himself, and then starts a cat-and-mouse-game between the CBI and the rouge gang.
Indeed a very interesting idea on paper but the film was let down by lacklustre execution. A Wednesday worked because of the exciting tension it created in the very first scene and held on to till the end. Special 26 takes a long time just to introduce its characters and come to the point. Scenes are unnecessarily lengthened and we keep getting too many shots of various characters walking towards the camera with determined expressions. Still, the subtle humour and good dialogues do help keep boredom at bay.
What does not work at all is the romance between the leads. In fact all the Akshay-Kajal scenes are badly written and badly acted by both the actors. The film would have been better off without the whole track altogether. The songs too act as irritating speed breakers to the narrative. They seem to have been added only to give the film a commercial feel but, just like the romance angle, they are totally unnecessary. The film scores in capturing the 80s era well, especially Delhi and Mumbai. Kudos to the art director as well as the cinematographer. The costumes and styling too is mostly authentic.
The best part of the film is the last 45 minutes. The whole heist-planning is pretty well done. The twist in the climax is indeed shocking, even if full of loopholes. The competent supporting cast is in good form and it is their sincerity that keeps the audience involved in the film even when the writing lets it down. However, the same can’t be said for the lead stars as Akshay is inconsistent and Kajal plain bad.
If only Neeraj Pandey had done away with the songs and love track, and kept the film one hour shorter with tighter writing, this could have been a worthy follow-up to A Wednesday. What we get here is a middling thriller – which is still a decent watch, but it would be advisable to keep the expectations low.