Tiger 3 doesn’t reach the heights of Pathaan, despite a consistent array of fun action scenes and the legendary presence of Shah Rukh Khan.
The YRF Spy Universe continues to expand by seeing the return of Avinash “Tiger” Singh Rathore (Salman Khan) and Zoya (Katrina Kaif) in Tiger 3. Audiences who saw Siddharth Anand’s Pathaan did get to see Tiger appearing in a significant action scene where he breaks Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathaan out of a moving train, the first major crossover of a cinematic universe of spy films developed by Yash Raj Films. And while Pathaan was a total blast from beginning to end, preferring to wow audiences through a series of intricately choreographed (and at times, mind-numbing) action with a legendary return to the screen from SRK, Tiger 3 has difficulty finding its footing in the story and acting department.
Pathaan’s success was tantamount to the future of the YRF Spy Universe, but it was a commercial beast solely because it was SRK’s first film in five years after a series of flops forced him to take a break from acting. When the King of Bollywood appears for the first time in the film to reclaim his throne, the audience erupts in thunderous applause, ready to see their idol kick major ass in a quasi-riff on John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II. And when Shah Rukh Khan does show up in Tiger 3 to help Tiger out on his mission, the difference in acting styles between Shah Rukh and Salman is night and day.
SRK loves the camera. He gleefully embraces it at every turn and knows how to please audiences with his extended appearance in the film’s best action setpiece. It also helps that he has a rapport with director Maneesh Sharma, who helmed one of SRK’s most underrated pictures, Fan, which explores with a darkly twisted tone the subject of fanaticism and standom, containing one of the King’s best dual performances, as the star and the obsessive fan. It’s genius, really. Tiger 3 is Sharma’s first film since Fan, and he clearly has fun directing the Pathaan setpiece more than he has treating the meat and potatoes of Tiger’s latest adventure.
That adventure sees Tiger having to confront his biggest enemy yet: his wife, Zoya, who has allegedly turned on him by working with Aatish Rahman (Emraan Hashmi), a terrorist seeking revenge on Tiger and Zoya by forcing them to steal a briefcase with PAL codes to become Pakistan’s latest Prime Minister and unleash a nuclear attack against India. Typical world-dominating villain stuff, and as despicable as Hashmi may be through a devilish portrayal of the character, he can’t overcome the clichés Sharma and screenwriter Shridhar Raghavan put him in.
He’s one of the dullest villains this franchise has seen and can’t match the incredibly menacing presence of John Abraham’s Jim in Pathaan, a far superior villain in motivations and acting prowess. Salman Khan is also not a very good actor. I’ll probably get some tomatoes thrown at me, but he lacks a severe sense of charm that many leading actors have in India. The difference between them is evident when they put him with the ultra-charming and effortlessly hot Shah Rukh Khan on the same large-scale action setpiece. One is game to do anything with extreme malleability and has proven incredibly versatile throughout his career, the other is a brick. His chemistry with Kaif’s Zoya is not as strong as in Tiger Zinda Hai. The two seem so far apart in conveying emotion, with Bhai not conveying anything, while Kaif’s performance is more heartfelt and sincere.
Speaking of Kaif, hoooooooooooooo boyyyy does she kick mega ass here. Her arc has improved greatly upon the release of Tiger Zinda Hai, and Sharma elevates all of her setpieces as the movie’s real star. Minus SRK’s show-stealing presence as Pathaan posts the film’s intermission, Kaif shares the best action sequences of the movie. One of them sees her fly across a bunker doing scissor kicks (Zoya’s signature move plucked straight out of the Tera Noor scene from Tiger Zinda Hai), and the other is a towel fight in a spa between her and a military operative. Suffice to say, Sharma has lots of fun crafting those scenes and making the audience want more out of her instead of Tiger. Who knows how far this franchise will evolve, but the fact that a Zoya spinoff film isn’t in development drives me crazy.
The film’s first act establishes its intricate plot through a series of flashbacks and more dramatic sequences, as Tiger doesn’t know if he should trust Zoya. In those moments, the film is sometimes interesting, but its pacing is pitifully glacial, even if Sharma sprinkles in an action scene or two to keep audiences invested in the story. Only when Pathaan shows up Tiger 3 kicks into gear and becomes a total blast, with one neatly choreographed action scene to the next. The Pathaan scene is next-level in terms of gravity-defying stunts that put any Fast & Furious installment to shame: jumping in a motorcycle to a helicopter rope or sliding down a cart, Bahubali-style, before jumping on the turret of a truck to kill an endless army of disposable baddies.
It’s awesome and just the pick-me-up it needs to reach its final act, where Tiger says, “Till the day Tiger breathes, never will Tiger accept defeat,” before burning the house down and giving audiences the much-needed adrenaline dose they wanted. Khan may deliver a flat performance as Tiger, but the ass-kicking more than makes up for its narrative shortcomings. And a post-credit scene featuring the return of a fan-favorite character from the franchise was also the cherry on top of this unevenly-paced but ultimately satisfying cinematic experience from the YRF Spy Universe. The MCU may be in shambles, but the YRF Spy Universe is thriving and will continue to wow audiences in the upcoming War 2 and Tiger vs. Pathaan. Now, give us our Zoya spinoff already!
Tiger 3 will be released in thaters on November 12, 2023.