Crackdown web series review: A campy, passable espionage thriller
Crackdown is a binge-watchable fun package that works despite some obvious flaws
Indian cinema is known for its attempts to repeat a successful formula. If a lead pair proves to be a hit, it's a given that they will be cast together in multiple films thereafter. The same holds good for technicians and even locations. So, a sudden upswing in the number of films in a particular genre after one success comes as no surprise.
This isn’t just limited to films. We are now seeing ‘formulas’ being faithfully followed on OTT platforms too. In a space with unbridled and never-before-experienced freedom, it is surprising how soon a formula sets in. Following Sacred Games, The Family Man, Special OPS, and other Indian espionage drama-thrillers, we now have Voot Select’s Crackdown. But when does a trend run its course? When do the creators or the audience decide that a particularly successful formula has stopped working?
Director: Apoorva Lakhia
Cast: Saqib Saleem, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Iqbal Khan, Rajesh Tailang
Streaming on: Voot Select
Crackdown, which marks Apoorva Lakhia’s digital debut, wastes no time in setting up the premise. The RAW agency is trying to thwart yet another terrorist attack. Riyaz Pathan (Saqib Saleem) is leading the mission. He reports to RAW chief Ashwini (Rajesh Tailang). The mission is successful but it leads to a much more sinister game, which forces the RAW to employ the classic switching-of-lookalikes. This brings in Shriya Pilgaonkar, an actor who is making the OTT space her very own. From here on, there is one twist after the other, one betrayal after the other, one carefully-constructed set-piece after the other, and a couple of scenes to show how ripped Saqib has become.
Right from the opening credits, there is a strong sense of nostalgia attached to Crackdown. It could be the music that is a throwback to the times of Vijay Anand and Amitabh Bachchan in bell bottoms and pinstripe suits. Character arcs and certain plot points are reminiscent of Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroopam too. However, neither these references nor the throwbacks are necessarily bad things because the campy and the familiar nature of the narrative is well-suited for this genre. Apoorva Lakhia is quite proficient in milking such cliched situations. The actors too happily play into the stereotypes.
In a series about terrorism will, of course, have good Muslims and bad ones. The angle of in-house sabotage and Islamophobia, brought in by RAW’s deputy director Zorawar (Iqbal Khan), adds some inadvertent humour, and the final resolution for this angle is even more laughable.
However, none of these perceivable drawbacks, including some glaring loopholes in the narrative, even register because of the taut screenplay and a runtime that amounts to four hours stretched over eight episodes. There is always something happening and given the limited principal cast, we do feel invested in the characters even if some of them make the most archaic and questionable decisions.
But yeah, when do we know if a trend has run its course? When do we know the formula isn’t necessarily bringing in the same results consistently? Although it is true that there seems to be one series too many in this particular genre, Crackdown is surely not the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Despite having flaws here and there, Crackdown is still a binge-watchable fun package that exists in a space which is due for a major upheaval. But until that happens, let's sit back and enjoy India's seemingly never-ending answers to the Mission Impossibles and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spies.