Raees Alam runs an illegal alcohol empire in a Gujarat shrouded in prohibition; ACP Majmudar is in charge of toppling him off his high position
Gear up for a throwback to the great Salim-Javed blockbusters of the Seventies, where the hero grows up mid-action, every second line is meant to show off the character’s swagger, a Helen song (Sunny Leone here) breaks the tension and action sequences compel you to whistle.
Carrying that legacy forward, is Raees. Shah Rukh Khan plays the titular character of a spectacled goon who hates being called “battery”; he starts from harmless Ponzi schemes but graduates to pre-planned rackets and becomes the top bootlegger of his town. When ACP Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is posted in his area, he meets his equal. Raees forms a nexus with politicians who fuel his business, but he soon becomes the thorn in their side.
The first half is well-paced; it draws you in and makes you root for the bootlegger; Majmudar’s one-liners and the music whet your appetite and the Laila Main Laila sequence ups the ante. But the second half plunges into a weird Robin Hood zone where the antihero’s morals are suddenly defibrillated and he becomes a messiah. The movie takes a rough path there on, and the long runtime makes the ride bumpier.
Shah Rukh Khan has never looked better; he’s full of fury and for once, isn’t spreading his arms, but breaking others’. The film lies entirely on his shoulders and he carries the weight most of the times. When he doesn’t, the ever-so-reliable Nawazuddin Siddiqui steps in with his crackling performance. In the trademark Nawaz style, he delivers some comic relief while playing the Tom to Khan’s Jerry. Mahirah is restricted to songs and a few emotional scenes, but doesn’t really add much. If her purpose was to soften the baddie, it’s lost on the viewer.
The movie can feel a bit long, but if you’re going for a great Shah Rukh performance and some good ol’ popcorn-entertainment, it might just ‘raees’ to the occasion.