Agent Movie Review: This Akhil Akkineni-Surender Reddy Film Is An Unbearable Collation of Spy Cliches

Akhil Akkineni's character proclaims himself to be wild and unpredictable. The film is neither of these two
Agent Movie Review
Agent Movie ReviewFilm Companion

Director: Surender Reddy

Writer: Vakkantham Vamsi

Cast: Akhil Akkineni, Mammootty, Sakshi Vaidya

The word 'wild' is to Agent what 'Padhagattam' was to Acharya (2022). The film inundates us by injecting this word into our brains in varying degrees. On a scale of the female lead (Sakshi Vaidya) using 'Wild saale' as a compliment in a meet-cute interaction, to a bruised Akhil screaming at the enemy, "Saale nahi, wild saale bol!", the effect is the same: it's laughably annoying. Almost every actor in the film with a speaking part gets at least one chance to utter this word to describe the antics of the lead, Rama Krishna aka Ricky. The word 'unpredictable' is also used liberally to describe or react to the choices Ricky makes; the man, in fact, takes great pleasure in declaring himself as an unpredictable person. Unfortunately, akin to 'wild', 'unpredictable' is also restricted to prevail only as a word in the script and never as a characteristic of the film's writing.

The screenplay spends a substantial chunk of the set-up to ensure that we buy Ricky's wildness and unpredictability. Ricky is an ethical hacker who operates from a den with a punk aesthetic that screams "cool guy". The over-enthusiastic youngster aspires to be a spy because he claims he sees the world from a different perspective, much like Sherlock Holmes; it's an attribute that is set up only to be never used again. He claims he speaks six foreign languages; another attribute that's never utilised. 

Akhil Akkineni in Agent
Akhil Akkineni in Agent

After being rejected by RAW thrice, Ricky decides to win the trust of Mahadev (Mammootty), the chief of RAW and his Dronacharya-like mentor figure. At one point, Ricky runs into Mahadev at a resto-bar and the latter asks him if he'd kill a random person on his orders. Ricky shoots the person dead without thinking twice. This idea, which sounds interesting on paper, is so uninspiringly executed that it only makes us wonder about the consequences of Ricky's deed or the lack of it, instead of relishing his, well, I don't want to say it again but, wildness. 

Naturally, when Ricky manages to acquire his dream job during the big interval bang and gets into the action, we expect fireworks. What we get instead is a long, loud, joyless action sequence where bad guys get drenched in a bullet rain precipitated by Ricky. The build-up, staging, acting, and music are so bland—although the green lighting of these frames says otherwise—that we don't feel even a fraction of the exhilaration we felt in films like Kaithi (2019) or KGF 2 (2022) when the gun was put to whistle-worthy effect. Perhaps it's time we let the Gatling gun rest for a while. None of the sequences in which Ricky's physical and mental strength are tested create an impact because the foundation of the character is wilted, to begin with. 

Mammootty in Agent
Mammootty in Agent

There's a clear distinction between the characters not taking themselves seriously and the film not taking its characters seriously. Agent belongs to the latter category. For instance, the character introduction set-piece, where Ricky has to save a school bus that's about to be bombed, is revealed to be a dream sequence. Agent clearly cannot demarcate subversion from cheating. This idea featuring a school bus, however, is interesting to an extent and is later revealed to have some relevance to Ricky's character arc but that too, like most of the plot points, feels like an afterthought and is left without closure.

Agent is a victim of fusion filmmaking. It aims to be a slick and mini globe-trotting actioner, with the action spanning from Budapest to Kashmir to Arabian deserts. But as a Telugu film, it resorts to tried-and-tested elements such as a tiring, charmless romantic arc just so that the screenplay can break into songs. See, the placement of songs is a skill by itself that only a handful of great masala filmmakers like SS Rajamouli and Sukumar have manoeuvred. More than being just a screenplay choice to lighten the audience and give them some space to breathe, the efficiency of a song placement relies so much on the mood and pacing of the film. It's always a double-edged sword. Agent fails miserably on this front because the songs, in the first half, come across as speed-breakers in an innately sluggish screenplay that takes forever to launch into action. Songs can only do so much to pronounce love and heartbreak when there's no strong drama or affinity established between the lead characters. And then, we have the 'Rama Krishna' song that snatches the trophy from Liger's 'Akdi Pakdi' for the most ill-timed and illogical song placement.

The story is a great platform for human drama but it's deeply submerged in spy movie cliches pervading the script. Mahadev is a cold man who prioritises the greater good and doesn't mind sacrificing his own men to accomplish it. He is a good man dubbed as 'The Devil'. His character is so poorly written that even when he faces a life-or-death situation in the climax, we barely feel for him.

Dino Morea in Agent
Dino Morea in Agent

The film's antagonist, no, not the screenplay, the character, I mean, is ironically nicknamed 'The God' (Dino Morea). The God, being the quintessential spy movie villain, is a highly-skilled spy who went rogue and now wants to destroy his country. Most of the action is set either in John Wick-esque glossy interiors or in the spy agency office that houses hundreds of monitors displaying random codes or visuals from the previous scene in the pretence of playing CCTV footage. This spy world — replete with characters relentlessly uttering information about data — wears you out immediately because there’s no room for originality or stakes here. There's no originality and sincerity in its visual aesthetics either. An important conversation between Ricky and Mahadev is staged on a greenscreen, set in the dawn, with the background bearing a striking resemblance to a scene in The Batman (2022). Also, it's disheartening and distracting to see a production of this scale make glaring mistakes like the voices of actors like Mammootty and Sampath being changed mid-way through a line. And the VFX is so clumsy that it only makes you wonder who approved certain shots.

Agent is a film in which the efforts of the team and resources pooled to realise the filmmaker's vision are evident. A couple of brief action sequences are the only respite in this colossal, hackneyed mess of a film that falls short of creativity and, well, wildness.

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