If Bloody Daddy was a T-shirt, it would scream: ‘Look at me! I am dying to be cool!’ Despite its almostfresh seriocomic tone and its fun-in-parts campy feel, this is a film that aspires to be a slick Tarantino flick as well as imitate the world of the John Wick films. It partly manages to be both, but what it fully ends up as is a bloody incoherent mess. ‘Bloody’ is the operative word here.
The ‘Daddy’ in the mix is Shahid Kapoor’s Sumair, a narcotics officer who has his hands deep down and dirty in the business of drug dealing. Or does he? That’s the kind of ambiguity and duplicitous suspense that would have been a delicious set-up in a good film. Despite its initial promise, Bloody Daddy, unfortunately, falls short of being one.
Shot during the Covid-19 pandemic (which also makes its way into the film as a plot device), Sumair’s double-dealing ways see a stash of cocaine make its way to him after an early morning shootout, which he orchestrates himself. But the man who owns it — butcher-turned-hotel kingpin Sikandar (Ronit Roy) — will have none of it. And so he gets Sumair’s precocious son kidnapped and holds him hostage in exchange for the bag of drugs.
Added to the already messy state of affairs are Sumair’s colleagues — his boss Sameer, played by Rajeev Khandelwal, and Diana Penty as Aditi — who are in pursuit of both Sumair and his stash, and a drug boss played by Sanjay Kapoor. The only thing I remember about him, at the end of the two-hour film, are his fiery red sunglasses. Kapoor, anyway, has never been guilty of being memorable.
An adaptation of the 2011 French film Nuit Blanche (that translates to Sleepless Night), which also found its way into a Tamil-Telugu remake as Kamal Haasan’s Thoonga Vanam a few years later and after that as the Holly film Sleepless starring Jamie Foxx, Bloody Daddy takes place over the course of one night Managing to craft an immersive watch over two hours in a confined space — the hotel is sprawling but our handful of characters wind up in the same locations within it over and over again — needs a solid story and engaging characters, both of which Bloody Daddy lacks. The film — literally and figuratively — goes nowhere after a point. Granted that this is the kind of boom-whack-thwack film that relies mostly on big set pieces and Bloody Daddy (streaming for free on JioCinema), does have some well-choreographed action. But like everything else in the film, even the action gets repetitive after a point. An interesting powwow sequence set in the hotel casino is choreographed to the beats of a song (again a Tarantino hat-tip), but it has neither the power nor the panache to make a lasting impact. The manipulative background score, too, does the film no favours.
What also sets back Bloody Daddy is the immense amount of posturing. Characters walk in slo-mo, blow rings of smoke, abuse with abandon and spout lines which are more (unintentionally) comedic than cool. Despite being a credible name, the film’s director Ali Abbas Zafar doesn’t have the wherewithal to make an all-styleno-substance film, something that War-Pathaan man Siddharth Anand has often been found to get away with. Even when Ali does it, he needs the crutch of a Salman Khan (Tiger Zinda Hai and even Sultan to some extent), with the (still) charismatic superstar’s twitch of his famous firoza bracelet being enough to make thousands break into spontaneous whistles.
What is also stupefying about Bloody Daddy — it’s taken Ali and three other writers to pen this film — is the time in which it is set. Right at the beginning, we are told that the film unfolds in the months just after the first Covid-19 lockdown, with the world trying to limp back to normal. But aside from the appearance of a few masks, some talk about how the pandemic has hit drug trading and one genuinely funny sequence when a character says he’s unable to taste the cocaine ripped out from a packet, prompting his man Friday to ask him if he has lost his sense of taste because of the virus, there is absolutely no logical reason for Bloody Daddy to reel in the pandemic as its setting. If this was a more self-aware film, I would be inclined to believe that the makers were satirising a moment in the film where the hotel’s DJ picks up a drum and stick and urges the party people on the dance floor to scream: ‘Go corona, go.’ As is, it turns out to be yet another pointless gimmick in what is an ultimately pointless film.
Shahid Kapoor can hardly ever be faulted in his acting and here too, he does whatever he can. In many ways, Sumair reminded me of his infamous Kabir Singh — a man with very little sense of responsibility, a terrible husband as long as he was married and a perpetually absent father. There is a horrific scene of Sumair deliberately spoiling someone’s dream wedding with no valid reason. The sequence is played for laughs but is far from funny. Shahid embraces the part fully and what I did enjoy was that moment where he, as an antithesis of Kabir Singh, schools a man forcing himself on a woman that ‘No means no.’ It’s a piece of sharp writing but given the rest of the film, it feels awfully forced. The only one who seems to be having some sort of fun in the film is Ronit Roy, something that a perpetually scowling Rajeev Khandelwal does not. The socalled twist in the tale involving his character is something that is not going to surprise, leave alone shock, anyone. The most thankless role in the film belongs to Diana Penty who is constantly mansplained and told to go back home even when she’s in the middle of an important mission. The film’s only other female character — Sumair’s ex-wife — is shown as a perpetual nag. Ali’s last film Jogi — a moving tale about a young man’s act of courage during the 1984 Sikh riots — had so much soul. Bloody Daddy didn’t need to have that. Just a little bit of spirit would have been enough. But this daddy simply isn’t cool enough.