While Amitabh Bachchan and Rana Dagubatti get unanimous thumbs up for this fare; RGV's Department is equally resoundingly panned by critics for its script and direction. Here's a sampling of views of some of the important reviewers in the media today:
Mrigank Dhaniwala, koimoi.com
Rating: 2/5 (Two stars)
Nilesh Girkar’s story delves into the inner workings of Mumbai’s underbelly but this subject has been handled much better by many other films before. More importantly, besides a few punch-filled dialogues, Girkar’s screenplay offers little new insight into the workings of the underworld or the police-underworld nexus. Besides, the plot is surprisingly devoid of context.
Amitabh Bachchan (as Sarjerao Gaikwad) is the pick of the lot; he acts with a swagger as is required of his character of a wily political mastermind. Sanjay Dutt, as Mahadev Bhosale, manages to look earnest enough but he needed to be more mean and menacing. Rana Daggubati, as Shiv Narayan, puts in an earnest effort. He is good in the action scenes and raw in others. His Hindi diction often seems out of place. Vijay Raaz, as Sawatya, performs with gusto but his scenes are, at times, unintentionally funny.On the whole, Department is a below-average fare that will appeal only to a few audiences who will like the action, in spite of the ordinary script and the irritating narrative style.
Taran Adarsh, Bollywood Hungama
Rating: 2/5 (Two stars)
DEPARTMENT is soaked in high-voltage drama and action, with a consistent undercurrent of tension. As a matter of fact, there's an overdose of action in the film, though, I must admit, a few action pieces, especially the final showdown between Sanju and Rana, is deftly executed. But the absence of a riveting and absorbing screenplay looms large in the post-interval portions. Sure, some sequences do hit you hard, but the writing tilts heavily towards been-there-seen-that kind of situations persistently, promising little or no surprise as the plot unravels. RGV's obsession with the camera is evident here as well. He does away with the usual visual language this time, which is sure to win him admirers. The background score [Dharam-Sandeep] enhances the impact, while the dialogue are power-packed at times, but plain mediocre at places.
The central characters get extensive scope and absolutely surrender to RGV's vision. Amitabh Bachchan is remarkably credible. Sanjay Dutt stands out with a prominent performance. But it is Rana Dagubatti who surfaces as an accomplished actor. Rana has remarkable screen charisma and is convincing in his superior portrayal of a cop.
Vijay Raaz's character lacks meat. Abhimanyu Singh enacts his part with gusto. Madhu Shalini [Abhimanyu's love interest] catches your eye. Laxmi Manchu [Sanju's wife] is proficient. Anjana Sukhani underplays her part wonderfully. Deepak Tijori doesn't get much scope.On the whole, DEPARTMENT is neither novel, nor experimental, but a return to the tried and tested formula. Disappointing!
Srijana Mitra Das, Times of India
Rating: 2/5 (Two stars)
The violence might even have clicked, considering the tale's twists - but crazy camerawork makes you forget all that. Varma's experimented, placing multiple cameras at different angles, treating you to close-ups of bottles pressed to mouths, lips sucking cigarettes, zooms up Dutt's hairline. The camera even flips upside down, puncturing the tension that should've vibrated between Bachchan and Dutt. One line - "Chamatkaar ko namaskar" - nails it. You stagger out sensing something wasted - Nathalia Kaur's item number's more hideous than hot, the prettiest thing around is a translucent tea-cup, the action is mind-numbing. Losing the plot and three strong stars, Department shoots itself in the foot.
Blessy Chettiar, Daily News and Analysis
“I used five matchbox-sized digital cameras to shoot Department… I didn’t know which camera is capturing what…,” said Ram Gopal Varma in an interview, adding that he’d figure it out on the editing table. We wished to figure out a lot more sitting through this extreme pain and abuse-inducing film on the senses. We should have known what we were signing up for.The best acting chops are displayed actors’ crotches, coffee mugs, newspapers, spectacles, carom board and striker, dumbbells, earrings, wigs, moustaches, ash trays, tables, the list goes on. RGV’s favourite topic, the politician-police nexus forms the crux of Department.
Raja Sen, rediff.com
Varma's latest, Department, takes the director's increasingly schizoid cinematographic tendencies into a whole other league, and gives us, besides watery eyes and potential nausea, the filmmaker at his most insipid. With barely a storyline, the new film is but a random assemblage of fight scenes, which would, in itself, work if crafted well. Alas, Varma's insistence to shoot every scene with a half-dozen cameras slows everything down and constantly distracts the viewer with repellent angles and needless tracking shots.
An experiment this may well be, but it is a pointless one. Uninspired scenes are slowed down and fed to us through staggered shots in wildly varying resolution -- one shot showing you every hair on a flabby chest in hideous detail and the next looking like it were shot with a cellphone -- and while it must be liberating for Varma to not worry about storyboards (or even stories), this cannot possibly be taken seriously.
Kunal Guha, Yahoo Movies
Rating: Minus One