Special 26: A Bollywood Mix of Argo and Ocean’s Eleven


While its trailers would have you believe that Special 26 is a Bollywood mix of Argo and Ocean’s Eleven, writer/director Neeraj Pandey’s follow-up to A Wednesday is more like the latter than the former—but only a bit. Set in 1987 and thankfully not based on a “true” story, Pandey’s period heist comedy follows a quartet of ballsy thieves who pose as members of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and rob corrupt public figures of their ill-gotten wealth. But when real CBI officer Wasim Khan (Manoj Bajpayee) catches wind of the gang’s scheme, he becomes—as the genre demands—obsessed with catching the crooks. The film is superficially tense throughout, but director Pandey doesn’t know what to emphasize when: square-jawed crook Ajju’s (Akshay Kumar) wispy love affair with bashful lover (Kajal Agarwal) is primarily established in an rushed musical montage that approximates an entire unrequited romance of deferred glances and polite gestures in a single scene. What sets Special 26 apart is its insistence that cops and robbers operate based on similarly intractable assumptions about each other. While Wasim is sure that Ajju has no scruples, dropping a 100 rupee note just to prove that Ajju would hastily claim it, Ajju is equally certain that the best dupes are the most civic-minded, enlisting the help of the most zealous lay-people for his group’s last big score. Pandey’s got something here, but as with Ben Affleck’s film, his execution isn’t as good as his subject.

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