Movie Review: Gunday (2014)

Gunday2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Editor’s note: So, a lot of people have been coming to this review via IMDb, because Gunday is — after just one week in theaters — already the lowest-rated movie of all time. Lower than The Hottie and the Nottie, Birdemic, and even Manos: The Hands of Fate. As of February 22, it’s at 1.2/10, a full .8 ahead of its nearest competitor.

Is Gunday really that bad? As a movie, no. You can read below how I thought it was problematic, but passable.

Then why is it ranked as IMDb’s worst movie ever? It looks like the movie’s portrayal of the Bangladesh Liberation War has angered a lot of people, who have coordinated to give it as many 1/10 reviews as possible. Look at the IMDb user reviews, and several of them have the exact same title: “Manipulating Bangladesh’s Liberation War history.”

Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with the true events that Gunday references. So while I still think it’s okay as a film, I certainly wouldn’t vouch for it being historically accurate!

Abrupt changes in tone and an abundance of slow-mo keep Gunday (“The Outlaws“) from establishing its own voice or finding a rhythm.

The story begins in 1971 at the end of the war that established Bangladesh as an independent nation. 14-year-old orphans Bikram (Darshan Gurjar) and Bala (Jayesh V. Kardak) survive the deprivation of a refuge camp by working as gun runners. When Bala shoots an army officer to save Bikram’s life, the boys flee to Calcutta.

Fast-forward ten years, and Bikram (Ranveer Singh) and Bala (Arjun Kapoor) are the unofficial kings of Calcutta, controlling all of the city’s black market commodities. The buddies do everything together, while savvy Bikram keeps Bala’s temper in check.

As soon as the guys’ present-day circumstances are established, an anchor drops onto the plot in the form of a love interest: a cabaret dancer named Nandita (Priyanka Chopra).

The premise that two guys are such good buddies that they decide to share the same girl could be cute in a more lighthearted movie than this one. But Gunday starts out grim, and it returns to being so once Nandita chooses one guy over the other. The thirty-minute wacky romantic-comedy interval doesn’t fit.

That’s not the only aspect of Gunday that doesn’t make sense tonally. Action sequences vary from dramatic and realistic to outright loony. Bala causes an earthquake before shooting up through the ground, as though propelled by a geyser. A fish is wielded as a deadly weapon.

The goofy action sequences are pretty entertaining, but again, they don’t feel right in the context of the movie. Gunday would’ve been better had writer-director Ali Abbas Zafar established surreal action as the dominant tone of the movie.

Such a tone would’ve also explained the volume of slow-motion used in the film. Walking, running, dancing: seemingly every form of motility is presented in slow-motion. The impact of the two scenes in the movie that actually benefit from the treatment is dulled by its application to so many mundane activities.

There is a ridiculous amount of skin on display in Gunday, and not just by Chopra’s cabaret dancer. In the movie’s funniest fight scene, Bikram and Bala exchange blows, ripping off each other’s shirts in the process. The shirts come off in slow-mo (of course), exposing Singh’s and Kapoor’s hairless, tanned, greased-up, muscular torsos. It’s not supposed to be as hilarious as it is.

As much attention as is given to the guys’ muscles — with special attention paid to Singh’s perky buns — Irrfan Khan wins for Best Body, and he gets to keep his clothes on.

Khan’s star power is on full display as the police inspector tasked with bringing down Bikram and Bala and returning order to Calcutta. Saurab Shukla’s understated role as the lawyer who watches over Bikram and Bala is also notable.

Chopra is fine as Nandita, though she’s not given much to do besides look sexy, early on. Her performance improves as Nandita realizes the consequences of having strained the friendship between the two gangsters.

It almost seems as if the role of Bikram was written with Singh in mind, and his charisma is undeniable. Kapoor is very good at playing edgy anti-heroes, and it’s a shame when Bala gets turned into a mindless beefcake goofball during the romance portion of the movie. His hair-trigger is shelved for the sake of song-and-dance numbers and out-of-place comedy bits.

As a surreal dark comedy or action flick, Gunday could’ve been really interesting, but there’s no place for light romantic tomfoolery in such a film. A clear vision rather than a please-all approach would’ve done wonders.


23 thoughts on “Movie Review: Gunday (2014)

  1. Shah Shahid

    Sad to hear, but this is still a must see for me. a) I’m obsessed wight he cheesiest song in the movie. b) It’s set in West Bengal! c) I have to watch every Ranveer & Arjun movie. I love both these dudes and think they have amazing careers in front of them…

    Maybe I’ll enjoy the novelty of the flaws you mention. I seem to like when actors do outstandingly overdone roles for the sake of overdoing it.

    1. Kathy

      I’m curious to hear your take on it, Shahid. Knowing what Arjun is capable of as an actor, I don’t think they pushed his character nearly as far as they could have. The whole movie is something of a missed opportunity, but especially for Arjun.

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  3. simum bristy

    #gunday is totally a rubbish types of movie!
    but its not my headache!
    but in this movie description about the war of 1971 is wrong!!
    bangladesh was born by the liberation war of bangladesh not from india-pakistan war!!
    india helped bangladesh in liberation war at the last of the war! we the people of bangladeshi respect them but if you say you people made our country free from Pakistan and if you tell that is your credit we have to raise our hands against it!!!
    in the movie you try to change our history!!
    so the authority of gunday movie are requested to solve the problem or we the bangladeshi will raise our voise to ban gunday!!!!

  4. Samir

    1971 war was between Bangladesh & Pakistan. India didnt participate in this war directly. They just helped Bangladesh.

    But the director completely changed this history & made fun of such history.

    I dnt know whether he is mentally sick or smoking too much weed.

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  7. Saz

    Historical accuracy does not reflect the rating of a film. If historical accuracy were a major indicator of film rating, Braveheart would be one of the worst rating film ever. A film should be judged by screenplay, sound, acting etc, not the silly story or historical accuracy. If we do not like the history that is outlined in the film, we can write a review by mentioning it, but we cannnot say that the film is the worst because of the historical accuracy or story. In Gunday, they deliver the inaccurate information to the audience regarding Bangladesh’s birth. The directors are not obliged to follow the real history, they can manipulate if they want. I am not accepting the historical inaccuracy about Bangladesh which was expressed in this film, but I would not rate this film based on that.

  8. Deepak C.

    Thanks for explaining the low IMDb rating! Me and my college roommate have been looking forward to this movie for weeks because we’re huge Ranveer and Priyanka fans (and, as he says, we act a lot like Ranveer and Arjun have been in the press rounds leading up to the movie), so I was shocked by the 1.2/10 and #1 Bottom 100 ranking. Good to know it’s got nothing to do with the quality of the film, but I fear for anyone who turns to Bollywood for an accurate account of historical events (remember Asoka?).

    Great review as always. Will hopefully catch this next week, and will hopefully get to make time for Highway — it looks so different and off-beat that I’m just compelled to see it, even though it lacks traditional star power and Rahman’s soundtrack is relatively weak.

    1. Kathy

      Thanks, Deepak! I hope you make time to see Highway, since it’s really something special. And enjoy, Gunday, too. Ranveer’s got a bright future ahead of him.

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