By the time Mumbaikar gets to where it wants to be via a twisty third act, we begin to see how much better the film could have been.
But it's almost too little, too late, complains Mayur Sanap.
When the son of a dreaded gangster is kidnapped in an ill-conceived plan, the gangster is forced to co-operate with the kidnapper, and that sets off a chain of domino effects, causing much havoc.
The kidnapper is an out-of-towner Munna (Vijay Sethupathi), who arrives in Mumbai with a dream to become a don.
'Mumbai meri jaan, main aa gaya,' Sethupathi declares in his entry shot. The Tamil actor makes his Hindi film debut in Director Santosh Sivan's Mumbaikar, a remake of the 2017 Tamil hit Maanagaram; he made his Hindi OTT debut few weeks ago in Raj-DK's Farzi.
With the Maximum City as the centre of all the action, Mumbaikar is a criss-cross between multiple stories which play out around the botched-up kidnapping.
It strings together the stories of a new-in-the-city job seeker (Hridhu Haroon), the empathetic HR manager who helps him (Tanya Maniktala), her hot-headed but kind-hearted one-sided lover (Vikrant Massey), a wily police officer (Sachin Khedekar), and an aam-aadmi driver (Sanjay Mishra).
Things go awry in their respective stories and somehow, these characters cross paths with a gangster (Ranvir Shorey), who will spare no one until he finds his son.
Working from a script by Himanshu Singh and Amit Joshi, Sivan sets up the plot pretty well initially until the central story becomes implausible due to too many characters. The plot just gets more convoluted as it goes on.
It does not help that viewers feel little or no emotional connect with these characters.
Sivan never fully strikes a balance between a dark comedic tone and a murky thriller, and the film suffers greatly from that.
Mumbai has long been a draw for film-makers to set their stories in.
From underworld sagas and action thrillers to romantic comedies and slice-of-life dramas, the megapolis and its many shades have been depicted on celluloid many, many, times.
But Sivan, who also shot this film, fails to capture the essence of the city. Other than the opening montage of famous Mumbai landmarks and Mumbaiyya swearing (a lot of it!), the city doesn't assimilate with the story the way it should have.
Parts of it work because of the talent of its cast.
After his solid turn in Farzi, Sethupathi puts his formidable talent to good use as the dopey Munna.
His deadpan stares and dry humour are reminiscent of his villainous character from Master (2021), minus the violence.
Watch him in a hilarious scene as he mouths filmy dialogues in front of a mirror that has image cut-outs of Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth, Mohanlal and Marlon Brando.
However, as the plot progresses, Sethupathi's performance feels contrived because his character is severely undermined due to uninspired writing. A talent like his deserved better.
Vikrant Massey suffers from the same problem. None of the other characters are fleshed out either.
By the time, Mumbaikar gets to where it really wants to be via a twisty, revealing, third act, we begin to see how much better the film could have been. But it's almost too little, too late.
Mumbaikar streams on Jio Cinema.