Kaizad Gustad’s optimistically titled Jackpot wants to be a sweat-soaked comic noir, like those stories of con artists in sultry Florida bayous, with alligators snapping around. There’s a sense of that lassitude too – the film opens with the shot of a frog that can barely bring itself to jump, and a houseboat even carries the name Laid Back Waters. The story – something about a Rs. 25-crore investment and bringing Disneyland to Goa – plays like an LSD version of the real-estate swindle from Ladies vs Ricky Bahl, and we might have been entertained had the events been told straight. But Gustad doesn’t do straight. He does fractured narratives. He does chapter titles. He does edgy art direction, like having the belt buckle on Boss (Naseeruddin Shah) match a wall hanging. He does things like having a cop sketch a nudie picture during an interrogation. And he does running gags like the one with a character who cannot help looking at the heroine’s (Sunny Leone) chest.
What he doesn’t do is put together something that can make us care. (We’re like that frog; a torpor descends on the theatre and we can barely bring ourselves to watch.) And the acting is awful. No one goes to a Sunny Leone movie because she, um, performs well, and she’s clearly been hired for the scene where she strips down to her undergarments and crawls on all fours to the camera – even so, you wince on hearing her line readings. Shah is slumming seriously here, but at least in his case there’s a possible explanation. After years of throwing himself into angsty roles, any actor would leap at the opportunity to toss out dialogue like “Risky is like whiskey” and do a Dirty Harry, bellowing out “You’re feeling lucky today?” He has one good comic scene, where he reveals that his name is Boss – and that he’s not just called that – but otherwise, he’s just along for the ride, sprawled out on a couch with two bikini-clad women at either end, one brushing his cowboy boots, the other gelling his dreadlocks. At least someone’s having fun.
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