Complications of a post-9/11 world
Kabir Khan’s “New York” -- part Bollywood potboiler, part overwrought examination of the war on terror -- is a slice of the Big Apple that you should skip.
“New York” opens with the amped-up FBI arrest of an Indian-immigrant cabbie carrying a cache of AK-47s and plastic explosives in the trunk of his hired ride. Detained under the Patriot Act, the driver, Omar (Neil Nitin Mukesh), adamantly denies any wrongdoing. His interrogator (the great Irrfan Khan, suffering the loopy dialogue as best he can) tells Omar he’ll make him disappear unless he cooperates and spies on his onetime college buddy Samir (John Abraham).
At this point, the way-back machine transports us to 1999 where Omar, the muscle-bound Samir and the impossibly beautiful Maya (Katrina Kaif) are students at New York State University. They have no cares (and apparently no classes). Musical montages repeatedly emphasize youthful passion and Omar’s unrequited love for Maya.
Then Sept. 11 happens, signaling an abrupt change for the characters and the film itself. Fluff gives way to some slow-motion torture, romance is upended by impossible plot contrivances. What Director Khan intends as an examination of the abuse of civil liberties is undercut by an overreaching of creative liberties, not to mention the shallow acting of the young leads.
Those looking for a better movie dealing with similar themes should seek out the 2007 Pakistani import “Khuda Kay Liye,” which imbues its subject and characters with a dignity that eludes this film.
-- Glenn Whipp
“New York.” MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 2 hours, 34 minutes. At select theaters.