Romeo Akbar Walter begins with a close-up shot of a bloodied and badly-bruised John Abraham breathing heavily. Humming a popular nursery rhyme, his perpetrator walks towards him and plucks off his nail rather ferociously. John's scream is enough to give you some chills.
However, our happiness is short-lived, as slowly the tension in the plot vaporizes. Director Robbie Grewal tries to add some unnecessary 'tadka' of romance to his narrative which doesn't help either.
The year is 1971. There's tension escalating between India and Pakistan with respect to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Romeo Ali (John Abraham), a bank teller who is also a theatre enthusiast, catches the eye of RAW Chief Srikant Rai (Jackie Shroff) who decides to send him as an undercover agent in Pakistan under a fake identity- Akbar Malik.
Akbar needs to extract information from Pakistan to thwart the country's plans of bombing an Indian base in East Pakistan. Things go as planned until Akbar's cover is blown off by an ISI agent Khudabaksh Khan (Sikander Kher).
While the plot has enough ingredients to build up an engrossing watch, Robbie Grewal who has also penned the film, resorts to a lazy-storytelling in the first half. He introduces too many characters which results in chaos and doesn't give you enough moments to breath. The emotional arcs too look forced.
However post interval, the thrill picks up and the twists and turns do manage to hold your attention.
Speaking about the performance, John Abraham delivers an earnest act and the film majorly rests on his sturdy shoulders. Mouni Roy doesn't get enough scope to perform. Jackie Shroff brings in some swag. Sikander Kher is watchable though he slips off his Pakistani accent at places.
The songs of Romeo Akbar Walter are forgetable and just add minutes to the screen-time. Tapan Tushar Basu's camera-work is impressive. However, the makers should have paid attention to the sloppy editing to keep up the film's pace.
Last year, Bollywood saw a winner in Alia Bhatt's espionage thriller 'Raazi'. John Abraham's Romeo Akbar Walter falters when it comes to recreating a similar hard-hitting impact. As Jackie Shroff's Srikant Rai puts it up, "Jung jeeti ya haari jati hai...Sirf ek cheez ke base par.....Information."
Sadly, Robbie Grewal packs in too much of them without giving us sufficient time to connect with the characters and feel their emotions. I am going with 2.5 stars.