The best attribute of “Murder 3,” described by the Bollywood press machine as an “erotic thriller” (hmm to both of those), is its primary setting: a gorgeous estate that deserves two thumbs up from the folks at Architectural Digest. Ah, that kitchen, that porch, that bedroom: It’s house porn worthy of the films of Nancy Meyers (“It’s Complicated,” “Something’s Gotta Give”).
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But Ms. Meyers’s films make us smile, and the very dour “Murder 3” — directed by Vishesh Bhatt as the third in a franchise — has a very different purpose. The house is part of the appeal of the photographer Vikram, played by the one-note Randeep Hooda as if he’d learned to act by watching Brad Pitt’s Chanel commercials.
While shooting wildlife pictures in South Africa (more beautiful settings!), Vikram hooks up with the architect Roshni (a fine Aditi Rao Hydari), who later disappears. Not one to waste time, Vikram moves on to Nisha (Sara Loren), a hostess in a high-end restaurant. When Nisha learns that the authorities are investigating Roshni’s disappearance, the thriller aspect of the film moves from setup into low gear, where it remains way too long.
“Murder 3” progresses in skeletal fashion, its story laid out brief chunk by brief chunk amid bass-heavy dance beats, other music that telegraphs suspense, or, least objectionable, ponderous quiet. The style is melodrama, which too often is dismissed as a weak genre; a good melodrama can be plenty entertaining. But not here, with long close-ups and lingering two-shots of actors whose work cannot support such attention.
There’s no pleasure in revealing the only spoiler here: Despite slick cinematography, “Murder 3” induces more lethargy than thrills.
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