Movie review: Ben Kinsgley and Amitabh Bachchan in 'Teen Patti'

By Dan Kois
Friday, February 26, 2010; 11:05 PM

Sir Ben Kingsley has never been one to turn down a job, which is why his recent résumé includes everything from the current No. 1 movie in America, "Shutter Island," to a role as a villainous vampire daddy in the 2005 schlockfest "Bloodrayne." His heroic willingness to cash anyone's check might explain why Kingsley, playing a Cambridge professor, phones in a handful of scenes in the overwrought, overlong, totally bonkers Bollywood thriller "Teen Patti."

Kingsley is paired with one of the great classic stars of the Indian screen, Amitabh Bachchan, who brings such commitment and gravitas to the lead role of Venkat, a tortured Mumbai mathematician, that you almost think he doesn't know how ridiculous his movie is.

In "Teen Patti," Venkat's theories allow him to master the titular card game, essentially a three-card version of poker. (One of the movie's laughable conceits is that only genius-level math can decode a game that's about as complex as Go Fish.) Along with another professor and a group of money-hungry students, Venkat makes millions in high-rolling games of teen patti. But he's being blackmailed! And someone dies! And he's feeling tortured about his perfect theorem, whatever it is, being used for ill-gotten gains!

Area Bollywood fans may enjoy "Teen Patti," although it plays like an unholy mishmash of "A Beautiful Mind" and the far superior thrillers of Michael Mann, whose style director Lena Yadav tries to imitate. But at least there's Bachchan, who demonstrates -- with his pompadour, his too-stylish glasses, and his habit of barking! every! word! -- that he's the subcontinent's answer to Al Pacino. But unlike Bachchan, Pacino has never been forced to prance through a Gaga-on-the-cheap music video during his movie's closing credits -- more's the pity.

*

Teen Patti is unrated. It contains some violence and some -- though not nearly enough -- sexy dancing. 2 hours 20 minutes. Playing at AMC Courthouse 8, Loehmann Twin Cinemas in Falls Church, and Laurel 6 Cinema.


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