Sunday, December 25, 2005

BLUFFMASTER - Slick Indian remake of Nine Queens/The Game

BLUFFMASTER is a beautifully shot and cleverly constructed Indian movie that tells the tale of a conman operating in Bombay. Should you watch it? Only if you haven't seen any of the following flicks: the 1963 original; Nueve Reinas; Criminal; Ocean's Eleven; Matchstick Men; Snatch or The Game. Let me break it down for you:

borrows its title from the 1963 movie starring Shami Kapoor. The original bluffmaster also featured a conman undone by his love of a good woman but there the similarities end. The plot of Rohan Sippy's movie is stolen alost entirely from Fabian Bielinsky's superb 2000 flick, NUEVE REINAS, later remade in typical half-assed fashion as CRIMINAL for all those Yanks that can't read subtitles. Of course, all Bollywood movies have to have a happy ending, so about 2 hours into this caper we flip into David Fincher's outstanding 1997 flick, THE GAME. Being a Bollywood movie, we also have four musical numbers which are all shot in the manner of MTV videos. The music and the photography are a mish-mash of Will Smith's "Switch" and "Mambo number 5". I especially like the lead actor, Abhishek Bachchan, dressed up in a flat cap and sheep-skin jacket, a la Arthur Daley, rapping in the main song. About as hard as Fifty Cent.

I have to say that it is pretty ironic that a movie about the immorality of theft should be so thoroughly lifted from so many other cinematic greats. With a pedigree like that, it's not surprising that we have a good end-product! And all kidding aside, if you haven't seen the Hollywood originals, this really is a good movie. However, my enjoyment was definitely impaired, not only because I knew all the plot twists, but also because this sort of blatant ripoff leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It's not that there is any crime in remaking a Hollywood movie - Hollywood cannibalises its own back catalogue often enough - but there is surely some ethical, if not legal, obligation to credit the originator. Moreover, young directors like Rohan Sippy will surely only make truly great movies when they move away from homage/pastiche/plagiarism/whatever and into telling new and original stories.

BLUFFMASTER was released in India, the UK and US on the 16th December 2005.

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