Manoj Bajpai and Anupam Kher in supporting roles. The film is based on a real life group of con artists who pulled off many clever robberies during 1980's, and robbed famous businessmen and politicians by pretending to be the CBI or Income tax officers, on the pretext of conducting raids they would take away all the black money hoarded by them, the film also takes its concept from the real-life daring heist dated 19-March-1987 where the same group posing as CBI officers executed a daylight income tax raid on the Opera House branch of Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri in Mumbai, and disappeared with jewellery worth lakhs. The movie is set in the early 1980's.
Taran Adarsh, Bollywood Hungama
Special 26 is not one of those mindless masala entertainers with leave-your-brains-at-home attitude. You may assume it's one because Akshay Kumar is synonymous with films like Housefull series, Rowdy Rathore and Khiladi 786. Special 26, which borrows from real-life incidents, is a heist drama, has no forced humor, no South-styled stunts, no song-and-dance routine with foreign dancers in the background. Special 26 is more of a 'treatment' movie, a plot-driven fare. So, there!
Special 26 may be a fictionalized account of events that occurred in the 1980s, but Neeraj ensures it does not transform into a dry film/documentary that focuses completely and absolutely on the incidents. The film has the soul of a thriller and the director makes sure that it not only enlightens [to the present-day viewer], but entertains as well. While the volatile plot and enthralling drama catches your attention, the execution of the written material, besides proficient performances from each and every member of the cast, makes Special 26 a game changer, a worthy follow up to the director's A Wednesday.
Akshay Kumar does a complete U-turn with Special 26. Deviating from the comic/action roles he is recognized for, Akshay truly reinvents himself with Special 26. No two opinions on that. This is, without doubt, one of the most challenging roles in his career and the seasoned actor enacts it with complete authority. Not only will Akshay's fans adore him in this new avatar, even the skeptical types will applaud this superb act.
It's sure to get listed as one of the most gripping heist dramas based on real life occurrences. A film that's sure to win accolades, acclaim and awards. Also, box-office rewards!
Verdict: On the whole, Special 26 is an intelligently woven, slick and smart period thriller with its subject matter as its USP.
Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV
Special 26 is actually quite a long film – it is a shade under two and a half hours. But it feels much shorter than it really is.
It glides by with such effortlessness that it leaves behind no unsightly footmarks.
Special 26 is an intelligently scripted, superbly acted, enthralling and believable heist film that is more than just that.
If there is a weak link in Special 26, it is the somewhat laboured love story involving Ajay and his pretty Mumbai neighbour, Priya (Kajal Aggarwal). Ignore the inevitable love ditties and a big fat wedding number, and there is little else in the film that would appear out of place.
Verdict: Special 26 truly special. Not be missed.
Sukanya Verma, Rediff.com
Pandey not only creates a sense of 1987 with props and products but the inhabitants of Special Chabbis delicately convey the idealism and morality associated with that period.
At the same time, and this is interesting, there’s not any attempt to explain why these men do what they do. They are a bunch of regular people who rob after careful planning and ‘enjoy’ it.
The interview sequence, wherein the two AKs (Kumar and Kher) interact with a bunch of job candidates is typically entertaining with its range of loony responses, most peculiar being, ‘I want do my country.’
But what’s truly Special about this Chabbis is to see two such different actors, one reliably awesome and the other getting out of his comfort zone of mindless money-spinners to collaborate and credit a script that gives them something concrete and equivalent to work on.
Verdict: Oh yes, Special Chabbis is my second favourite film of 2013 so far.
Roshni Devi, Koimoi.com
Neeraj Pandey takes a very interesting plot with a game of cat-and-mouse, minus the muscle. It’s a battle of cerebral levels with a determined cop out to catch a super-smart thief. The climax is bound to take you by surprise even though it does have a few loopholes. What the film needed was the cop and the thief to be nipping at each others’ heels than just one final showdown. We are only shown Ajay hijack 2 offices before he decides to throw in the towel. Maybe if the marriage and item number were excluded…
The weakest part of the story is the romantic angle: its forced inclusion is badly written and just as badly enacted. Just like the songs. The dialogues are fun. You can take a few tips from Wasim Khan on asking your boss for a raise! The interview of the candidates is another hilarious part. The characters are not really well developed but are very entertaining.
Akshay Kumar makes a good fake CBI officer. As Ajay Singh, he does seem a bit too haughty at times, but it goes well with his persona. There’s something off about his hairstyle though, that goes from suave to weird-80s in certain parts. Darn, how good can Anupam Kher get!
Gaurav Malani, Times of India
It's a treat to watch Akshay Kumar in a no-nonsense role, brimming with as much confidence as his character demands. He is calm, composed and doesn't have to try too hard to be cool either. Manoj Bajpayee gets a meaty role and his character gets as much reliance and runtime as that of Akshay. The one verbal confrontation scene between them has more fireworks than what a physical combat scene from an average Akshay Kumar film has.
Anupam Kher is superb and the range of expressions he brings to his character is just amazing. Jimmy Sheirgill is excellent. Rajesh Sharma, Kishore Kadam and Divya Dutta add good support. Kajal Aggarwal is passable.
Verdict: Finally there's a film that lives up to its name and serves you something special!