Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty is an out-and-out Akshay Kumar vehicle. He plays Jack Bauer, Sherlock Holmes, Spiderman and Jason Bourne all rolled into one. He decimates sleeper cells (a word you will hear very, very often in this film) with his bare hands and unravels their nefarious plans with a little help from a Rubik's cube.
Given the paucity of space in Mumbai, he stuffs terrorists into his cupboard and happily goes off to sing songs with his girl. He turns fellow guests at a marriage party into an impromptu anti-terror squad and has a canny canine who can smell people miles off. The film even has lines such as 'ab ye sleeper cells coma cells ban jayenge. Ye hoga ek suicide attack'.
The strength of this film is that despite so many howlers, it carries you along. Director AR Murugadoss asks you to suspend disbelief and that done, it is a roller-coaster ride. The film's pace does not flag and its action sequences leave you on the edge of your seat.
Let's take a stab at the story: On leave from the Indian Army, Virat Bakshi (Akshay) is bride hunting and meets Sahiba (Sonakshi Sinha). Along with his cop buddy (Sumeet Raghavan) he catches a terrorist who is part of a sleeper cell. From then on, he is engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with a terror mastermind (Freddy Daruwala).
We take a look at what works and what doesn't in this Vipul Shah production.
Akshay is probably one of the best action stars Bollywood has seen in a long time and he again reminds us why he is on the top of heap. A chase sequence in Mumbai streets while rush hour traffic buzzes by is worth mentioning. Hand-to-hand combat and a fight sequence aboard a ship are also interesting. Watch him climb down from a building after doing away with a bad cop and you'll get the Spiderman analogy.
A fresh take on patriotism
Despite the fact that Holiday is a film about terror and Akshay plays an army man, there is not even one mention of Pakistan. Sarhad is mentioned, dushmans come into play too but they are all generic. When name-calling of terrorists begins, it is not limited to one particular religion. Instead, sleeper cells and terror are explained as byproducts of disenchantment with government/country.
The thrust here is firmly on common man's duty towards his country. Even Freddy doesn't play a bearded, chest thumping terrorist living in caves somewhere (a caricature of terrorists we see so often in Bollywood) but a tech savvy guy without any back story of wrongs committed against him/his family.
The film conveys its message without losing out on the entertainment front. The pace is taut and the narration engaging. Action sequences are interspersed with comedy (Govinda in a guest role and Akshay's poker-faced wisecracks) and romance, and don't allow your interest to flag. The story is intelligent and keeps you guessing about what happens next.
Way too long
At close to three hours, the film is way too long. Despite a persuasive story, you wish at times that editing was tighter. Song placement is not that wise and tries your patience.
Sonakshi has nothing to do much in the film and overacts in places. For an actor who has already proved her mettle in the acting department, this definitely is a downer. One thought that with her Laila Ali boxing moves, she will also get to throw some punches!
Other than Akshay, no one gets a well defined role in the film. Raghavan, who probably got more screen time than Sonakshi, end up looking caricaturish.
However, despite these minor cribs, Holiday makes for a satisfying watch and will keep the audience coming. A summer hit is on its way!