9 November 2016 | MartinHafer
Evil...with a heart of gold.
"Once Upon a Time in Mumbai" is obviously a film that is trying to capitalize on the success of such classics as "Once Upon a Time in the West" as well as "Once Upon a Time in America" by Sergio Leone. Fortunately, this Indian film is good enough that it's more than just a film borrowing a title!
The story begins with a cop trying to kill himself. He survives and then tells the following story about corruption. First, he talks about an anti-hero named Sultan. Sultan is a mobster but he has a very, very strict code of ethics. In his own way, he's a decent fellow and manages to unify all the mobs of Mumbai--bringing them peace and keeping them from selling drugs and destroying the poor. In essence, Sultan is a bad man with a heart of gold.
Then the story weaves in the story of Shoaib. Shoaib is almost nothing like Sultan. Instead of being a poor orphan like Sultan, Shoaib was raised by a policeman...but Shoaib is completely amoral, angry and vicious. For a while, Shoaib goes to work for Sultan but, not surprisingly, there's a falling out and I really don't want to tell you more...just see the story.
This film has a lot going for it. It's extremely cinematic and well crafted. In particular, I really liked Ajay Devgn (Sultan) as he was a nice combination of power, decency AND corruption--not an easy role to play. Well worth seeing and exciting...though some might dislike the downbeat ending. Considering the characters were based on real mobsters (yes, you can ignore the text at the beginning that says it's all fictional), you can understand the tone of the film at the finale.