The assumption that director Mani Shankar’s film Knock Out is a rip-off of the Hollywood thriller Phone Booth is a gross underestimation. The movie takes the plot of Phone Booth and cross-breeds it with A Wednesday to make it a story of a one-man crusade against the many corrupt. The end result of this cocktail is a film that leaves you laughing out loud one moment, and pulling your hair out the other.
Irrfan Khan plays an investment banker who is an expert in channelling off the big money of the corrupt folks to secret accounts in Swiss banks. One day he steps into a swanky telephone booth on a Mumbai road to make his usual calls. After he hangs up and is ready to leave, the phone rings. Irrfan picks up the phone. The man on the other end of the line (Sanjay Dutt) is a techno-whizz sniper who is spying on Irrfan from a nearby building and threatens with dire consequences if Irrfan doesn’t follow what he says.
As shots are fired and Irrfan is tethered to the phone, a jamboree of cops and media gather around the booth. Political bigwigs with a stake, too, get embroiled in the standoff.
What does the sniper want? Be ready for a surprise.
Director Mani Shankar’s intention is to keep a viewer hooked to every single scene in the film. He keeps the plot bereft of the usual songs or romantic tracks or other distractions. But how one wishes he had ensured a better script.
To start with, the dialogues are downright embarrassing. In one scene, a skulking Sanjay Dutt has his gun pointed at Irrfan and tells him to dance. Irrfan replies: “Bandook ki noke pe nachana achchi baat thodi hai? Main koi Basanti hoon?” Or sample that one when Dutt wisecracks: “Jab maut saamne hoti hai toh achhe achho ki Gateway of India ho jaati hai”. The movie has many such knock-out gems.
Some sequences are plain ludicrous. Irrfan singing, dancing and even doing a mock striptease is an embarrassment to watch. Even the actor, otherwise irreproachable, hams it like there is no tomorrow. Sanjay Dutt flaunts his swagger, spouts preachy dialogues and also shows his brawn power in the end. Kangana Ranaut as the overenthusiastic journalist isn’t a relief either. Apoorva Lakhia does add some unintentional humour by playing a no-nonsense sharpshooter.
The movie unspools at a fast pace. But what you see unspooling isn’t very impressive. The phone booth sequences get repetitive after a point and seeing Irrfan squealing like a stuck pig inside the booth, you feel sorry for the poor guy and want to lend your own cell to him just to get him out of the damned coop.