REVIEW: “Hit: The First Case” (2022)

A police detective tormented by a past trauma races against the clock to solve two missing person cases in the awkwardly titled “HIT: The First Case”. On the surface that sounds like a pretty good crime-thriller recipe. But this Teluga-language remake from director Sailesh Kolanu too often plays like a drawn-out procedural rather than a genuine thriller. And its slow boil and surprising lack of action may catch some viewers by surprise.

Rajkummar Rao plays Vikram Rudraraju, an esteemed cop working for the Homicide Intervention Team (also known as HIT). Vikram is known for his keen instincts and his ability to notice every detail of a crime scene. While his skills earn him the respect of most of his department including his chief Ajit (Dalip Tahil), he does butt heads with the ambitious Akshay (Jatin Goswami), a petty fellow detective driven by jealousy (as far as I can tell).

Personally, Vikram’s life is more complicated. He’s haunted by memories from a past case which has his doctor and friend Ritika (Noyrika Bhatheja) concerned. She warns Vikram that the stress of his work combined with his PTSD will do a irreparable harm, even giving him an ultimatum – quit the force or she’ll rule him unfit meaning he’ll lose his job.

Frustrated, Vikram takes an extended leave from his department but rushes back after getting news that his co-officer and love interest Neha (Sanya Malhotra) has disappeared. Along with his partner, Rohit (Akhil Iyer), Vikram makes a connection between Neha’s disappearance and the abduction of a teenage girl named Preeti (Rose Khan).

It takes a while, but Vikram’s investigation eventually begins to heat up. His list of suspects grows to include Preeti’s parents, a suspended police officer named Ibrahim (Milind Gunaji) who happens to be the last person who saw the missing girl, and a divorcee hungry for attention named Sheela (Shilpa Shukla). Vikram intensifies his search for Preeti, hoping that finding her will also lead to Neha.

The story finally starts picking up steam in the second half, but even then it’s not without several head-scratching hurdles. Characters do things that simply don’t make sense, and motivations for certain actions are such a stretch that they’re too hard to believe. Then you have the out-of-the-blue and unconvincing twist/reveal that seems more outlandish the more I think about it. And never mind it ends with a rather shameless plug for a sequel (and I mean it literally says “HIT: The Second Case” coming soon”).

There are a few other nagging issues. Take Vikram’s psychological state which seems to be a significant part of the story in the first act before all but vanishing later. And then there’s Sen’s performance which is almost cold to a fault. We never get to see much beyond his steely, super-serious demeanor. It makes empathizing difficult, and it dulls the movie’s most emotional storyline.

I know I’ve thrown a lot of criticism at “HIT: The First Case”, and it’s not undeserved. But the movie isn’t a total drag. If you’re able to connect with the case then there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy watching the investigation run its course. I actually was engaged enough to stay with it. I was interested in the many moving parts and seeing how the pieces would fit together. Sadly, there’s nothing about the borderline ridiculous conclusion that feels remotely satisfying. And it leaves the movie on a forgettable note. “HIT”: The First Case” is now streaming on Netflix.

VERDICT – 2 STARS

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