Gila Gusti

Gila Gusti Is a Dud

Dept. of Tired Tropes


Let’s get the good stuff out of the way. Gila Gusti has a pretty decent poster. It plays with the perspective of the ring and highlights the two rivals in the movie; their expressions on the one sheet conveying just the right kind of over-the-top emoting that we’ve come to expect from professional wrestling. The wrestling itself looks decent. It’s not Glow, or Fighting with My Family, or even Nacho Libre, but there is just enough movement and energy to evoke some thrills. But most of all, the movie has its heart in the right place. This feels like a passion project, but one that was ultimately let down by mediocre direction and some truly terrible writing.

This movie seems to take place in an alternate reality where everyone in KL seems to know about – and care about – the Malaysian wrestling scene. Mamat (Syafie Naswip) and Zul (Aisar Khaledd), or dumb and dumber, are two somewhat juvenile and socially stunted best friends who are obsessed with a professional wrestler called Naga (Ayez Shaukat Fonseka). It’s all they think about. It’s all they talk about. And so, when Naga is betrayed by his mustache twirling boss and loses the championship belt, the two buddies take it upon themselves to seek him out and save his career.

How? Ways. Why? Because. That is the extent of thought that went into this screenplay. Gila Gusti feels like it was written by a 13-year-old who had but a passing familiarity with comedy and wrestling. The dialogue is stilted. The plot is painfully derivative. And the jokes are so dated that they would make every last Raja Lawak contestant cringe in abject shame.

Every Sports Movie Ever

There is a tried and tested arc in movies like this one. You know how it goes. The superstar athlete turns out to be a selfish, self-obsessed asshole who, over the course of the movie, reconnects with the fans and rediscovers his passion for the sport. It’s a simple trope, but one that works because it gives fans a sense of purpose and a part to play. It makes us feel good because it gets us involved and moves us past being merely spectators. None of that happens in this movie.

In Gila Gusti, the writers decide instead to weigh down their lead character with every single sports movie cliche. So much so that there is no coherence here between who Naga is from scene to scene. He is introduced to us as something of a diva, but there is absolutely no follow through on that idea. He flails wildly between archetypes, from an actual athlete, to the lovable underdog, to the down-and-out has-been, to the idiot with a heart of gold. It’s an absolute mess. Which is a real shame. Because Shaukat has a natural charm that is criminally underserved by his writers.

The other characters don’t fare much better either. Syafie Naswip and Aisar Khaledd are made to stand around and play dumb. Elizabeth Tan plays the token Chinese woman, the stereotypically slinky sexpot, whose only purpose in the movie is to seduce the Malay lead. And Jalaluddin Hassan shows up because of course Jalaluddin Hassan shows up.

A Flying Elbow to the Brain

Gila Gusti

The biggest misstep here, however, is in how the director, Silver (he’s just got one name, like Cher, and Almodovar), has chosen to frame the wrestling sequences. There are just one too many edits and unnecessary closeups. It’s what you would do if you were shooting an action movie with an aging Liam Neeson, or a wrestling movie without bona fide wrestlers. Which isn’t the case here. So why not just place your camera where it needs to be and let the professionals do their work.

That said, the actual wrestling in the movie is still pretty fun. Even the overwrought editing couldn’t take away from the fantastic line up of local talent on display, from Shaukat himself, who is the godfather of Malaysian wrestling, to Nor “Phoenix” Diana, the first ever hijab-wearing pro wrestler. Alas, none of it is enough to make Gila Gusti any less of a dud. Skip this one. You’re better off watching these guys wrestle in real life.

Gila Gusti is now showing in Malaysian cinemas.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

Previous Story

5 Reasons You Should Watch Pachinko on Apple TV Plus

Next Story

Mukhsin Is Proof That Childhood Never Really Left

Latest from Movie Reviews