There is no question that Akshay Kumar has never put more effort into his acting than in this movie, yet, his performance was nothing deserving of the lauding he has been getting from critics. It is an ‘ok’ performance, passable at best and sadly, he does not get the opportunity to experiment with it either because the character is so poorly written. The character of A.K. Vardhan may be the most boring and bland con-man ever written for film, but that is not Akki’s fault, it is clearly Pandey’s. In fact, none of the characters in this movie were even the least bit interesting, and the only thing that kept the train rolling here is the ultimate inevitable reveal of how they would dupe the CGI chief (an expressionless, one-note Manoj Bhajpai).
Pandey clearly thinks himself a director with a ‘signature style’, as many of the aesthetics etched out in A Wednesday somehow find themselves in this film too… from the slow motion head turns to the steady-cam “walk-and-talk” shots to split-frame action shots which anticipate a conjoining of two separate parties. Yet, while in A Wednesday this style amplified the narrative choices in the film; such as the pure suspense of motive (we were never sure what the “Common Man” was up to) and the clear distancing of the two parties (law enforcement and criminal never meet until the very end), Special 26 uses these for purely stylistic purposes and serve no greater means to the film other than to make it look ‘cool’. This is a sign of a filmmaker trying hard to be unique, but miscalculating his own intent.
I also don’t want to leave out the fact that the tonal inconsistencies in this movie were absolutely horrendous. The “romantic angle” for this was completely out of place and felt cringe-worthy and forced. It is very clear that Pandey took this extra piece on his plate hoping it would add to the film’s appeal, but instead it is the one thing that completely cripples the entire flow of the movie. The song sequences are also terribly shot and look cheap and cheesy. I think Pandey is pretty good when he is concentrating on the dissection of societal problems, the way he did in A Wednesday where he hazed the line between justice and hypocrisy on the part of the “Common Man”. Had Pandey skipped the love-crap altogether it may have bought him time to delve into the most important issue that lies within Special 26: That criminals think like cops better than cops think like criminals.