Why on earth was this film about a father-son bonding promoted as an action film? Sure, "Blackmail" has got its share of action. But above the elaborately staged stunts by Allan Amin, this is a film about an anti-social who discovers the paternal side to his personality when thrown into close contact with a precocious kid.
Not the least undesirable. The last really creditable father-son film was Shekhar Kapoor's "Masoom" where Naseeruddin Shah and Jugal Hansraj played an estranged father and son discovering each.
But Ajay Devgan and little Parth Dave aren't in the same league. There does seem to be a certain comfort level between the man and the child. They're more watchable together than Anil Kapoor and his juvenile co-star in Indra Kumar's "Rishta". But Parth goofs up by being more filmy than natural. Ajay as a man fighting destiny's cruel blows comes up with a better performance than expected in a film of this nature.
"Blackmail" has some virtues that take it beyond the vices that vitiate the formula film. Despite some obnoxious dance and song breaks, it moves at a brisk pace, breathing fire and ice in scenes tautly written by Robin Batt and Javed Siddiqui.
The irony of a criminal inadvertently kidnapping his own son from a cop (Suniel Shetty) is well tapped, though the script's full potential stops short of being realised.
But the scenes between the father and his son are well executed. One sequence in the forest where Ajay (with that look of anxiety and pain in his eyes) tries to buy some more time with his newly discovered son is surprisingly sensitive in its filial suggestions.
The plot's build-up, with Suniel trying hard to fit into Nick Nolte's mould of the wronged establishment-man in Martin Scorcese's "Cape Fear", is however ineffectual.
"Blackmail" makes the same mistake as earlier films spotlighting the antagonist. It glamorises the sociopath to the point of glorifying him. Unlike other films about the stalker like Yash Chopra's "Darr", Blackmail swings the pendulum completely away from the hero to the anti-hero.
Ajay is effective. In comparison Suniel is pretty much left to his own devices, much like Sunny Deol in "Darr" vis-à-vis the antagonist Shah Rukh Khan.
Priyanka Chopra simply hovers around Suniel trying to look like a concerned wife and mother...a losing battle. Her seduction song (borrowed from the evergreen "Bahon mein chale aao" in the 1970s' film "Anamika") is like a coffee break in the middle of a cricket match.
The other lady in this drama about boys' bonding is Diya Mirza. She makes effective use of her cramped space in the few scenes that she has.
The film has very few peripheral characters. That could have been a blessing if the film had walked the straight and narrow path of the thriller from start to finish. Unfortunately, it tries to please too many people at the same time.
The technical polish and Ajay's restrained performance salvage the film's imminent journey into disaster, though not enough to make this a film worth your while.
One point needs to be made strongly. The kidnapper anti-hero is a supremely sympathetic character. He's turned into a celebration of the Stockholm Syndrome. Is it right to glorify child kidnapping at a time when so many real-life incidents of abductions have hit the headlines?