Target (Sandip Ray)

Rating: **1/2 (out of ****)

Most films that don't really work start off well and go downhill; this is one of few films I've seen that mildly bored me for over an hour and then suddenly grabbed my attention in the final reels. Directed by Sandip Ray from a script by his late father, the great Satyajit Ray, Target moves at a glacial speed for its first hour or so (it's a two-hour film), meandering about, apparently unconcerned or unaware that viewers are about six steps ahead of the narrative and are waiting for the damn movie to catch up. It's not as excruciating as it might be, though, because the film's protagonist is played by Om Puri, a performer I'd previously seen only in small roles in Hollywood films (Gandhi, Wolf), but who, given a part that he can sink his teeth into, displays the sort of effortless charisma and range that distinguishes truly great actors (he reminded me of people ranging from Rick Moranis to Toshiro Mifune, in the course of this single film). The story is trite and simplistic, but gains power towards the end when it gets down to business (and unexpectedly turns into a Western, complete with Main Street showdown). It's a bit late by then, unfortunately, but the gripping conclusion and Puri's terrific performance nearly make it worth seeing anyway.