Though National award-winner Prakash Raj's flamboyant villainy and Ayesha Takia Azmi's endearing cuteness do miraculously find a place in the plot, this is the hero's vehicle like very few masala-maar-ke products in recent times.
Welcome to the world of the one-man-army
Salman Khan adapts his goon's name Radhe from Tere Naam where he mixed violence with vulnerability in a heady brew. The mix in Wanted is far more brackish and tangy.
Wanted is an old-fashioned bone-cruncher with guns and goons creating a kind of orchestrated anarchy that was done with far more elan in Ghajini. In Wanted the violence is far cruder and guttural. The hero is on a sort of society-cleansing spree where the mode of conduct adopted by the villains and heroes become the same.
Director Prabhu Deva retains the crude edges from the original Telugu material Pokiri. The villains are vicious and foul-mouthed. They are quite often seen in Khaki and very often represent the kind of unfettered anti-socialism that can only be contained by a law-sanctioned vigilantism that Salman practices in the last-quarter of this blood-thirsty tale. By the time he goes shirt-less the script has whipped itself into a sweaty stupor.
The plot is essentially a one-liner. One-man army takes on a city filled with scums. The villains are everywhere in Mumbai. It was Hyderabad in the Telugu original. But what difference does it make? Cities change, morality doesn't. The two-legged predators are everywhere. In boats and trains. In pubs and warehouses. One khaki-clad spitting and foul-mouthed villain (played with despicable authenticity by Mahesh Manjrekar) even infiltrates a decent woman's house and threatens to sleep with both mother and daughter. Ouch.
Mercifully the daughter Ayesha Takia has Salman for a boyfriend. But the poor police commissioner (Govind Namdeo, in a positive role for a change) is unlucky with his daughter. She gets kidnapped, raped and MMS-ed by the arch-villain. It's a mean world out there. Thank God for the screen hero.
While Vinod Khanna is wasted and Manoj Pawa's role as the overgrown boy-in-a-bubble next door doesn't quite fit into the scheme of things, Prakash Raj as the villain gives celluloid diabolism an interesting new twist. He looks zonked, menacing and ironical. His confrontation with the police commissioner is written with that polished panache that brings a twist to pulp frictions.
But make no mistake. This is a made-to-order film for Salman Khan. As a one-man army Salman springs into every frame with that trademark mix of a bored swagger and agile comicality. His romantic moments with Ayesha have a lived-in credibility except when the songs take over.
That's the cue to run for cover. Strictly for fans of action flicks, and Salman in that order.