They shouldn't have evoked Gabbar's name in the film. Gabbar, perhaps the most iconic villain in the history of Hindi Cinema, has nothing to do with this 2-hour, 10-minutes long humbug of a film that dangerously tries to blend formulaic action-masala with the tricky genre of vigilante justice. The film lacks conviction itself and fails to convince you because of its dangerous positioning where kidnapping, killing by hanging are glorified as legitimate means of rooting out corruption and serving 'justice'.
Akshay Kumar is a college professor who doubles up as a corruption crusader when he is not teaching. He christens himself as 'Gabbar', for reasons best known to him, and keeps reminding us that he is 'naam se villain, kaam se hero'! Eh! While vigilante justice films can be absolute revelations if they are beaming with purpose and sparkling with novelty (remember, A Wednesday and Akshay's own Special 26?), Gabbar Is Back is extremely preachy and devoid of any originality. I am not even trying to explain to you that this film is a remake of a Tamil film's Telugu remake. Did you get that?
To its credit, Gabbar Is Back maintains a good pace throughout and is backed by a hero who is punching hard at all the right places. In fact, the film's first half breezes through rather easily even though there is no moment of glory. The problem, or rather say potholes in the screenplay, arise in the second half when Gabbar's tragic back life comes into the fray. So, Mr. Director, is Gabbar a social reformer with PWD (Power Wala Danda!) or simply a disgruntled, frustrated man who is out there to avenge the death of his wife (guest appearance by Kareena Kapoor in a curious pink nose) and unborn child? From this point onwards, Gabbar Is Back falls flat as motive becomes hazy, modus operandi questionable and logic anyways was always sitting pretty out of the window. How does Gabbar shortlist the 'corrupt' ones from thousands of officers? Who verifies if the corruption charges are legitimate at first place? There are plethora of unanswered questions that you will perhaps not even bother to ask by the time the tedious second half assumes its predictable proportions. Even the investigating officers, featuring Jaideep Ahlawat as a CBI officer and Sunil Grover as a constable who is overzealous and uselessly curious, seem quite disinterested in tracing Gabbar and most of the time end up bickering among themselves or eating Samosas.
Gabbar Is Back has some funny one-liners that will make you chuckle and a few 90s style dialogues for the front row audience. Then, there is also Sunil Grover and Jaideep Ahlawat twisting their tongues while speaking in English. No disrespect meant, but these two actors look rather out of place while delivering their dialogues in English. And hello, why did they need to speak in horrible-sounding English? To show that they are more competent and honest than their peer police officers? Blah.
The film also has Shruti Haasan as a desperate-to-act-cute, decorative piece. Akin to what's reserved for actresses in films of this genre, Haasan's importance in the film's narrative is negligible and Gabbar's supposed romantic interest in her makes you wonder - wait, is this guy avenging his wife's death? Hmm.
The film's music is strictly okay. Special effects are tacky (the buildings collapse like a pack of cards, like how it used to be in good old Doordarshan serials). Screenplay and direction is messy to the say the least. Akshay Kumar is his usual confident and effective self. But, he is undone by a unremarkable script and screenplay that never challenge him to do what he has not done before.
Gabbar Is Back tries hard to blend and hard sell Bhagat Singh and Arvind Kejriwal schools of thought, but ends up being mostly stupid. Watch it only if you wish to save your electricity bill and enjoy a theater's air-conditioning in this sweltering heat, or you have a 'thing' for anything and everything anti-corruption.
Rating: ** (Average)