The best way to approach “Race 3” is to forget about the number in the title. This purposefully unhinged masala has as much connection to previous entries in the Bollywood action-thriller franchise as “Halloween 3: Season of the Witch” had to its two predecessors. Also, it’s a good idea to abandon all hope for anything resembling narrative logic. Whatever flimsy ties the movie has to reality and/or coherence are pretty much shredded during a deliriously extended early scene involving the firing of automatic weapons, the ferocity of mixed martial arts, the wink-wink kinkiness of a femme fatale who takes time to slice her hemline with a knife — to facilitate her karate kicks, of course — and the fortuitous arrival of a champion who literally drops into the ruckus after taking a swan dive off a nearby skyscraper in a base-jump suit.
And, mind you, that’s before the first of the many song-and-dance interludes that range from rapturous courtships to swaggering face-offs to Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics. Sample lyrics: “We’ve been gleefully boozing all night, and everything is looking bright.” No, really.
“Race 3” is the sort of what-the-hell, anything-goes fantasia where two grrl-ish women pause before trying to beat the hell out of each other on the dance floor, and signal to the club DJ that some appropriate musical accompaniment would be appreciated. It’s also the kind of mishmash that conveniently locates a bank with a vault that needs looting next door to a nightclub where long-legged women undulate the night away, and there’s crosscutting between a coolly methodical break-in and a rave-up to a song that generously samples the Fine Young Cannibals hit “I’ve Been Thinking About You.”
Whenever the music stops, something like a plot proceeds apace. The screenplay is credited to two writers, Shiraz Ahmed and Kiran Kotrial. But anyone trying to make sense of the incongruous twists and quadruple crosses that erupt throughout “Race 3” may find it much easier to believe that director Remo D’Souza took the script merely as a series of suggestions, not a blueprint to be followed, and simply told his cast each morning during production, “OK, here’s some wild stuff I’ve dreamed up for today.” And to be fair, some of that stuff — like a chase sequence that has a motorcycle-riding anti-hero pursued through a Cambodian jungle by legions of the local military — is pretty wild indeed.
It’s kind of a family dynasty melodrama, focused on Shamsher Singh (Anil Kapoor), an Indian expatriate who runs an arms-dealing business from an island empire in the Middle East with a little help from his spoiled twin children, Suraj (Saqib Saleem) and Sanjana (Daisy Shah, the aforementioned hemline slitter), and a lot more help from nephew Sikander (Salman Khan) and family henchman Yash (Bobby Deol). Singh seizes on an opportunity to return to his homeland by blackmailing various politicians with evidence of their sexual improprieties. Trouble is, evidence is stored on a hard drive that has been stashed in a Cambodian bank vault. (Yes, you guessed it: the bank vault next door to the dance club.) And his dysfunctional family may be too divided by rivalries, romantic and otherwise, to pull off the heist necessary to effectuate his homecoming.
Be forewarned: All of that might make “Race 3” sound more comprehensible than it actually is. Truth to tell, the movie, while giddily entertaining and exciting in fits and starts, fails to coalesce into a satisfying whole.
It’s not just that each of the characters — including Jessica (Jacqueline Fernandez), a putative con woman — is defined by ridiculously arbitrary shifts of motive and allegiance from scene to scene. And, really, it’s not a crippling deal-breaker that the performances are, to put it charitably, wildly uneven. (Khan, a Bollywood superstar who here suggests a DNA scrambling of George Clooney and Sylvester Stallone, appears to just be going through the motions.) In the end, what keeps “Race 3” from being an enjoyably sustained adrenaline rush is the slapdash quality of its storytelling. The peaks, while undeniably dizzying, are separated by too many valleys of frustrating confusion and absurdity.
On the other hand, “Race 3” could inspire a fun drinking game when it’s available for home viewing. Players could take a shot each time someone on the soundtrack warbles “We’re back in the race!” — but only if they take the precaution of drafting designated drivers before the revels begin.