Based on the book 'Dongri to Dubai', the film tries to bridge between fiction and real life incidents and attempts to make it as real as possible. However, barring the lead character, the rest of the names have been changed for obvious reasons! Also, since the title itself reveals what the movie is all about, there is no suspense there.
The story starts off with a scene in Kirti College, Mumbai where a studious Manohar Surve (John Abraham) is writing his exam paper and refuses to show his paper to his girlfriend and classmate Vidya (Kangana Ranaut), thus establishing him as an honest-to-the-core character. He is keen to avoid the murky past of his father and his step-brother and seeks to make an honest living after completing his studies.
However, a freak incident changes it all and Manya is falsely implicated in a murder case along with his step-brother who actually committed it. With dreams shattered, and a hard time in prison, he bulks up, learns to fight and Manohar turns into Manya. While serving his sentence, he teams up with a fellow convict Sheikh Munir (Tusshar Kapoor) and the duo stage an escape after having done time of around nine years.
Manya returns to the Mumbai and seeks employment with the Haksar brothers Zubair (Manoj Bajpai) and Dilawar (Sonu Sood) who are seen as a challenging force to the Pathans. When he is denied entry, Manya decides to form his own gang and challenge them to the supremacy towards proclaiming himself as the 'Baap' of the city.
On the side, his love tale also evolves, since Vidya is now a widow and the couple rekindle their romance. And this eventually proves to be his Achillies heel when a cop Afaaque Baaghran (Anil Kapoor) along with his colleagues Tambat (Ronit Roy) and Shinde (Mahesh Manjerekar) chooses to eliminate Surve and his likes.
The movie attempts to portray the dark days of Mumbai when gangs ran the show and how an innocent college lad turned into a fearsome goon, thanks to the pathetic justice delivery mechanism and the corrupt establishment. The story shows how cops wait on the sidelines as one gang tries to eliminate the other. And when it comes to picking a target for an encounter, they obviously pick the easier one.
What stands out in the film are some good performances. John Abraham looks the part as the goon who was once held the title of 'Mumbai Shree' as a professional Bodybuilder and delivers an honest performance. Manoj Bajpai does well as usual while Sonu Sood delivers a powerful performance. Anil Kapoor is good enough too.
Among other actors, Kangana Ranaut readily fits the bill of the 70's and 80's look and acts reasonably well. Tusshar Kapoor does ok and his character does bring out occasional laughs. Shakti Kapoor's son Siddhant makes his debut as one of Manya's gangsters. Bollywood's noted yesteryear villain Ranjeet, who was last seen in Housefull 2, makes an appearance as Bhaskar Dada, who has a skirmish with Manya.
The songs aren't memorable, except that they are played repeated on television. The oft repeated ones are its three item numbers, one each by Sunny Leone in 'Laila', Priyanka Chopra in 'Babli Badmaash' and Sophie Chaudhary in 'Aala Re Aala'. Well well, no prizes for guessing which of these three is better!
Verdict: When a movie has good acting and item songs, and yes, dialog loaded with swear words, there is a tendency of such movies to gravitate towards mass appeal. Nonetheless, for all that it offers, 'Shootout at Wadala' is a decent watch. But, those of you who detest gory violence are better off staying away.
Rating 6/10: Typical gangster tale, for mass entertainment