Gorilla Movie Review: A strange mish-mash of genres in this preachy dud
A comedy that turns to preaching about serious issues; a heist film that doesn't know what to do with the pet chimpanzee at its centre...Gorilla is all over the place
Always pay careful attention to how a heroine gets introduced in a film. It can tell you quite a lot about how much the makers care—about the female lead, about their interest in straying away from cliches, even about how entertaining it all is going to be. If, like in Gorilla, they do what has always been done—slow down music to something pleasant, shoot in slow-motion, have bubbles flying about—it’s time to brace yourself. Gorilla is a film in which Jiiva plays a character called Jeeva. In another film, I wouldn’t make a big deal of it, but in Gorilla, these are all little signs of how much they care… or not.
Cast: Jiiva, Shalini Pandey, Sathish
Director: Don Sandy
Jeeva is a conman and is a horrible piece of work. He steals in buses, poses as a doctor, and once the dull introduction of the heroine is unleashed upon us, he shows he’s no mug when it comes to stalking too. He follows her on his bike; he keeps calling her despite her evident irritation; and when she goes jogging, who should she see but him again. In one scene, she even seems disturbed that he has ‘liked’ every single one of her Facebook photos. He’s still a petty criminal in the film, and hardly your average hero; so you think all the unsophisticated pursuit is in keeping with his flawed character. Maybe he will reform. Maybe she will go medieval on him. It is then that you get the first of a long list of strange developments that tell you this film, and its director, don’t care at all about such nuances: The heroine does a sudden turn and falls in love. And you learn this barely a scene after she seems thoroughly annoyed by his existence. This time, she stands with a vague expression on her face, when something like a blush passes on her face. That is your cue that the persistence of our Dr. Stalker Robber has paid off.
Gorilla tries to turn into a heist film, as Jeeva and his four friends, including an ape, decide to loot a bank. They take inspiration from a bunch of Hollywood heist films like The Town and The Dark Knight. The film fails to sell any of this—there’s no humour; there’s no intrigue—and even the actual robbery has the tension of watching paint dry. The hostages sit around, as though they were watching mildly interesting television—which is still way more than you could say about my engagement with Gorilla—and the police stand outside, waiting for instructions from seniors who they haven’t apprised about developments in the bank. In any case, it’s a bank whose secret locker has pirated DVD’s because ‘Vishal thollai thaanga mudiyala’. You just sit with a strange expression bordering between indifference and sorrow.
There is a lot of forced messaging too, and I suppose that’s par for the course, these days. In between trying and failing at absurdist humour, this film also makes sudden, ill-advised detours and engages in ineffective posturing about the plight of farmers. There’s a usual dig at Vijay Mallya and banks. There’s a mandatory anti-Indian reference somewhere. There’s also something about the poor being better people than the wealthy. It all rings fake. For a film with such noble intentions, it doesn’t seem to have cared enough to avoid likening Yogi Babu’s face to an ape’s. It gleefully shows harassment of the female lead; it sympathises with a hero who says, “Ponnungalukku emaathardhe pozhappu.” All the messaging about farmers is intended to butter you up, to have you feel some guilt perhaps about disliking this bizarre film.
Above all, Gorilla wants to be a funny film. Here are some samples of its attempts to make you laugh. A quack tries to take a peek at a woman’s hip under the pretext of using an injection. When Jeeva suggests that they all rob a bank, his friend randomly responds, “Pongal ku venumnaa vellai adikkalaam; kollai laam adikka mudiyadhu.” Later, actor Rajendran who plays a barber is shown beating his customer up for not wanting a haircut. Somewhere in the film, there’s a store that sells a real bomb instead of a duplicate because its worker doesn’t know the difference between left and right. There’s a mentally unstable person who’s mocked for a large stretch of the film. The biggest joke though has to be that they have cast a chimpanzee in a film that they call Gorilla. Say what you will though; there’s no denying that it’s a one-of-a-kind film. It’s a heist film, it’s a surreal comedy, there’s a pet chimpanzee, there’s preaching about social issues… I’d wager it will be a while before we see another filmmaker try to make sense of all of this in one film. I pray it takes a while.