Sepia tone in the beginning – Check. Typical Villains and vamps – Check. Overdressed actors overacting – Check. Big cars, empty roads and horse races – Check. Incessant smoking as if it were a fashion statement – Check. Poor visual effects – Check. And that sounds exactly like a Bollywood film trying too hard to be a period film. And what about the script? Oh well, nobody seems to have given it a thought.
Based on the film's posters, if you thought that the movie was made by Neeraj Pandey (of Baby, Special 26, and A Wednesday fame), you have been fooled. IMDb merely lists his name as miscellaneous crew with the title 'presented by', not sure whatever that means! The film is instead directed by Dharmendra Suresh Desai who is two movies old and Rustom happens to be his first featuring a big star.
The story is apparently inspired by the real life 1959 court case of KM Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra which was the last case to be heard as a jury trial, after which, the government abolished the process. The film deals with the events leading up to the eventual acquittal by the jury. A simple reading of the Wikipedia page on the case tells you that the story had enough meat and didn't have to resort to extraneous stories.
Akshay Kumar plays the lead character, Commander Rustom Pavri who discovers that his wife Cynthia (Ileana D'Cruz) has been having an affair with Vikram Makhija (Arjan Bajwa, remember the 2008 film Fashion?). He obtains a pistol from the navy and uses it to kill Vikram point blank and then surrenders before the police. Pavan Malhotra plays Vincent Lobo, the cop who digs deep to unearth the multiple layers in the story.
The filmmakers chose to complicate the story by bringing in the angle of corruption with the antagonist being involved in it. It somehow rationalizes the protagonist's act. Also, the portrayal of Cynthia seems to have been done keeping in mind the views of the Indian audiences on extra marital affairs and have therefore shown her as a victim and Rustom as someone who had to kill Vikram to avenge the latter's wrongs to the nation.
Bollywood is far below the Hollywood benchmark when it comes to making serious defense based or courtroom dramas. Case in point was 'Shaurya' which was a poor remake of 'A few good men' which failed to impress despite casting some of the finest character actors. Rustom is also no exception as it fails to deliver on the promise.
Numerous clichés and caricatures spoil the seriousness of the film. The newspaper editor who runs articles in support of Rustom is almost shown as a buffoon. Esha Gupta plays Vikram's brother Preety Makhija in an utterly vamp-like manner, replete with smoking through long cigarette handles, elaborate makeup and garish lipstick. And then we have the classic Bollywood movie judge who goes on hammering 'Order, Order'.
Akshay Kumar's primary costume in the film is his pristine white Navy uniform.. It doesn't matter whether he is working aboard a ship, drinking at home, cooling his heels in police custody or his multiple appearances in court; it stays spotless. While appearing unreal, the only purpose is can possibly serve is to help woo women audiences!
With a 50 crore budget, it could have surely done better on visual effects. The orange sky behind the ship and the artificial fluttering flag in Akshay's entry scene look utterly unconvincing. Instead of wasting money on shooting a romantic song in a foreign locale, they could have at least made the Indian setting look more convincing.
Talking of music, it was mostly forgettable and the film would've done well without songs. The background score is loud in an attempt to build seriousness, but doesn’t impress. I would be surprised if someone came out of the movie hall humming any song!
Despite its flaws, Akshay Kumar is the sole savior of an otherwise disastrous film. He is convincing as he plays an upright defense officer. Among the others Pawan Malhotra does well as the cop. Ileana D'cruz and Arjan Bajwa are passable. Sachin Kehdekar the annoying lawyer. Manoj Bajypayee was an invisible narrator and rather unimportant.
Verdict: Rustom had the potential of being a gritty courtroom drama, public sympathy and relationships gone awry. Instead, we get a sympathetic portrayal of an honest officer amidst a corrupt defense deal and a whole lot of inane caricatures. At best, it can pass boredom on a Sunday afternoon whenever it is aired on television.
Rating 5/10: Underwhelming. Waste of Potential.