Razneesh Ghai’s Dhaakad sees Kangana Ranaut as Agni, an agent who is on the trail of an evil sex trafficker. As fiery as her name and fond of walking into tinderboxes while waving a lit match, Agni glowers her way through unremitting carnage.

Agni’s mission takes her through several disguises and from Budapest to Bhopal, with a pit stop at a coal mine. The target is Rudraveer (Arjun Rampal), a silver-haired sadist matched in brutality by his lover Rohini (Divya Dutta).

Local contact Fazal (Sharib Hashmi), who has an adorable daughter (Dishita Jain), brings Agni close to Rudraveer. That said, the ghastly couple prove stunningly easily to find.

Don’t get distracted, warns Agni’s mentor and handler (Saswata Chatterjee). Among the acres of tin-earned dialogue in the film, this line has to be the most disposable. Unable to make small talk and fanatically dedicated to her job, Agni is from the ‘All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl’ school.

Any light touches in Ghai’s 131-minute action saga are entirely unintended. One of them arrives at the point when Ghai’s torture porn has outlived its shock value. Another has to do with a lullaby that has been haunting Agni since her childhood, which only enhances the film’s overall soporific effect.

Arjun Rampal in Dhaakad. Courtesy Soham Rockstar Entertainment/Zee Studios/Sohail Maklai Productions/Asylum Films.

Inspired by several Hollywood films about superhuman agents who single-handedly take down criminal empires, Dhaakad makes little effort to credibly localise its themes. Filled with natural-born killers who maim and slay for the heck of it, the film exists as a showcase for its heroine’s fighting spirit.

Saddled with a shoddily written character who is more overt operative than covert operative, Kangana Ranaut can only provide proof of her physical vigour and athleticism. With no time to die or even love – one of the saddest scenes revolves around the monomaniacal operative’s inability to respond to male appreciation – Dhakkad lurches from one Agni-on-fire moment to the next.

Saving the world from gangs who prey on children and women has rarely been this lonesome, or uninvolving. The film briefly comes alive with the antics of Arjun Rampal, sporting a strange accent and a thick voice, and Divya Dutta, vamping it loudly as Rudraveer’s partner-in-crime. A lengthy action sequence in which Agni leads a team of commandos into Rudraveer’s lair is among the better choreographed set-pieces in a film that fires in all directions but frequently misses its targets.

Dhaakad (2022).