Review: ‘Michael’ (2023), starring Sundeep Kishan, Vijay Sethupathi, Divyansha Kaushik, Gautham Vasudev Menon and Varun Sandesh

February 10, 2023

by Carla Hay

Sundeep Kishan in “Michael” (Photo courtesy of Karan C Productions and Sree Venkateswara Cinemas)

“Michael” (2023)

Directed by Ranjit Jeyakodi

Telugu with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in early 1990s and briefly in the 1980s, primarily in the Indian cities of Bombay and Delhi, the action film “Michael” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class, wealthy and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: An orphan who was adopted by a crime boss grows up to be a thug innvolved the boss’ revenge schmes and murder sprees, while secrets and lies affect people’s motives. 

Culture Audience: “Michael” will appeal primarily to people who want to watch a lot of gruesome and gratituous violence in a movie that doesn’t have anything of quality to offer.

Gautham Vasudev Menon (center) in “Michael” (Photo courtesy of Karan C Productions and Sree Venkateswara Cinemas)

“Michael” is yet another mindless action flick about gangs and other people who are out for revenge. The story is a narrative mess, the fight scenes are unrealistic, and the acting is terrible. And with a total running time of 155 minutes, this flimsy story is dragged out for too long and quickly wears out its welcome with a lot of bloody and empty violence until the movie’s very predictable end.

Written and directed by Ranjit Jeyakodi, “Michael” does nothing clever or truly original, since it rips off ideas that have been in much better films. The movie (which take place in India, mostly in the early 1990s) tells a sloppily made story about an orphan who was unofficially adopted by a crime boss and has grown up to be a leading enforcer in his adoptive father’s gang. It should come as no surprise that secrets from certain characters’ past lives end up being revealed as a plot twist, although viewers who’ve seen enough of these types of unimaginative movies can easily predict this plot twist.

The title character in “Michael” is a swaggering thug (played by Sundeep Kishan), who has a mysterious past. In the early 1980s, Michael was adopted as an orphaned adolescent by a Bombay-based crime boss named Gurunath (played by Gautham Vasudev Menon), who has taught Michael everything that Michael knows about how to be a ruthless criminal. Michael has become Gurunath’s most trusted and most powerful enforcer.

However, not everyone in this crime family is a fan of Michael. Gurunath and his wife Charulatha (played by Anasuya Bharadwaj) have a biological son named Amarnath (Varun Sandesh ), who’s about the same age as Michael. Charulatha and Amarnath seem to resent Michael and treat him like an interloper in the family. Amarnath is predictably jealous of Michael because Gurunath respects Michael more than he respects Amarnath. Michael will most likely be named the successor to Gurunath’s crime operations.

Michael’s loyalty to Gurunath will be tested when Gurunath orders Michael to go to Delhi to kill two people: another crime boss named Rathan (played by Anish Kuruvilla) and Rathan’s seductive daughter Theera (played by Divyansha Kaushik), who doesn’t do much in the movie except pout, act sexy, and do some awkwardly place song-and-dance numbers. Gurunath wants Rathan and Theera to be murdered as revenge, because some of Rathan’s goons kidnapped Michael and stabbed Gurunath.

The movie never shows how, but Michael escapes from this kidnapping. (It’s an example of the movie’s awful screenwriting.) The next thing that viewers see is Michael taking a huge slab of boned meat and going into a nightclub and assaulting people with this slab of meat. He then uses weapons and his fists to assault more people. Many of the men being attacked work with gangster RK (played by R. K. Mama), who is an associate of Gurunath and who is also in the nightclub. RK warns Michael: “Michael, the day I come back will be your death day.”

Before Michael gets sent on the murder mission, Gurunath warns Michael not to be seduced by Theera. This is an example of some of the terrible dialogue in the movie: Gurunath tells Michael that female spiders kill male spiders after mating with them. “Women do the same things,” Gurunath adds. “We just don’t see it.” As soon as Gurunath makes this misogynistic statement, you just know that Michael will be seduced by Theera.

Michael starts off by stalking Theera, who ends up getting a car ride from Michael and tells him that she knows that he’s been following her. Theera asks Michael to stop the car so that she can get some ice cream from a street vendor. Then she smirks and tells Michael: “I like to slap before I kiss … You’re not the only person I’m kissing. You want to sleep with me, no? You’re not my type. I’m warning you: Don’t fall in love with me.”

Be prepared for more mind-numbing and idiotic scenes like that, because “Michael” is full of them. There’s a subplot about Michael getting protection from an unnamed operative (played by Vijay Sethupathi) and his wife (played by Varalaxmi Sarathkumar), who have clues to Michael’s murky past. Michael also has a faithful sidekick named Swami (played by Ayyappa P. Sharma), who is kind of useless and isn’t in the movie as much as people might think he should be.

“Michael” is nothing more than bombastic and ludicrous fight scenes cobbled together, with a few musical numbers thrown in to make the movie even more erratic. All of the characters don’t have any real substance and just go through the motions. The action scenes are beyond stupid and just further lower the quality of this already low-quality movie. The ending of “Michael” makes it obvious that the filmmakers would like to make a sequel to this atrocity, which should be avoided if viewers care about preserving some of their own brain cells.

Karan C Productions and Sree Venkateswara Cinemas released “Michael” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on February 3, 2023.

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