A spiritual sequel to Bang Bang (2014), itself an official remake of Knight and Day (2010), A Gentleman gives us a double scoop of Sidharth Malhotra vanillaness.

The first is Gaurav, a boring, earnest, buttoned-down type who has reached the pinnacle of achievement in America: a house in Miami, a cavernous car and the possible companionship of a woman who channels the spirit of 1970s Bollywood heroines. Gaurav’s would-be girlfriend Kavya (Jacqueline Fernandez) likes speeding and pole dancing, and at least one skill comes handy when the time is right.

The other is Rishi (Malhotra again), an Indian undercover agent who executes several successful missions for the mysterious Colonel (Sunil Shetty) along with Yakoub (Darshan Kumar). Although Rishi is presented as the epitome of coolness, he matches Gaurav in his blandness. The movie has some fun teasing out the connections between these two gentlemen. Are they twins separated at birth? Lookalikes? Or are they the same person?

A Gentleman (2017).

The actual identity confusion lies elsewhere. Directors Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, who currently go by the crisper title Raj & DK, bring their signature snark to a movie that also wants to fit into Bond-Bourne territory by way of True Lies. The directors and dialogue writer Sumit Batheja aim for a combination of punches and punchlines, giggles and bullets, running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. They send up formulaic elements while also slavishly reproducing them – always an untenable position, and certainly not one that can be maintained over 133 dragged-out minutes.

The agent who tries to break away and is hunted down by his former boss, the ditzy girlfriend who is the last to know, the dorky friend who embraces his violent side, the final mission to end it all, the meet-the-parents scene when bodies are strewn across the backyard – A Gentleman is unable to overcome its derivative cool and come up with new ways of reimagining the action comedy.

Some of the throwaway humour is on the nail, but many lines lunge for low-hanging fruit, such as the mirth that is supposed to follow the pronunciation of the name of Gaurav’s workmate, Dikshit (Hussain Dalal). Amit Mistry, a regular actor from Raj & DK’s movies, has a cameo as a Gujarati enforcer in Miami who will go down in movie history as the man who introduced the Gujarati concept baporia to the mainstream.

In trying to hardsell Malhotra’s all-rounder abilities, the movie ignores Jacqueline Fernandez’s potential as a Zeenat Aman reincarnation. Fernandez has more slinkiness than the whole movie put together, and she has fabulous chemistry with Malhotra, but she is as ornamental to the plot as was Aman in the Amitabh Bachchan movies.

Malhotra has nearly the whole story to himself, but he doesn’t yet have the acting range to master the art of underplaying. Several scenes demand that Gaurav’s visage crack to reveal life beneath it, but this surface is unbreakable. Since Malhotra isn’t the only one who is trying to be something he is not, his performance fits right in.