An ambitious but somewhat disappointing action film
Vikram review: Lokesh Kanagaraj brings together the spy-filled world of Kamal Haasan’s 1986 film Vikram and the action-filled world of his own Kaithi of lordala and drug cops in Vikram, a predictably plotted action film that is more interested in expanding his universe without really immersing ourselves in it. . It contains the mysteries of a spy movie and provides some of the thrills of an action movie, but it doesn’t feel entirely satisfying and doesn’t leave us with the adrenaline rush that a film with such ambitions promises.
The film begins intriguingly when Karnan (Kamal Haasan), the father of martyred cop Prapanchan (Kalidas Jayaram) is killed. We learn that there has been a series of such murders with a group of masked men taking responsibility and calling it their war on the system. Police chief Jose (Chemban Vinod Jose) brings in a covert ops team led by Amar (Fahadh Faasil), who begin digging into Karnan’s life. The prime suspect is Sandhanam (Vijay Sethupathi), a fearsome drug lord with a large family, who is on the hunt for a shipment of raw materials that could make him a kingpin. Meanwhile, Amar is puzzled by the many versions of Karnan. Was he an alcoholic father mourning the loss of his son, or a womanizer or more? More importantly, is he dead or alive?
Vikram works best in its first half, when we see Amar and his team trying to make sense of the murders and track down the killers. Even though these parts have very little of Kamal Haasan, we continue to feel his presence, both as a character and as an actor. There are nods to Kamal’s oeuvre, from Nayakan to Anbe Sivam, and spotting them offers some minor chills, especially if you’re a Kamal fan. The actor, who is here in action star mode, also gets a whistle-worthy moment, which leads into the interval. And Vijay Sethupathi seems to be picking up where he left off in Master, playing a ruthless villain. In fact, the juxtaposition of events in this part recalls a similar setup in Master.
But once the mystery around Karnan is cleared up (in fact, it’s an easy mystery for us, the audience, to guess), the narrative becomes pretty straightforward. A small band of cops should stand up to an army of gangsters. It’s something similar to what we had in Kaithi, but here it’s less effective.
To his credit, Lokesh tries to provide an emotional undercurrent, with a subplot involving Karnan’s baby and Prapanchan, but it doesn’t affect us strongly enough. And the arcs involving Amar and Sandhanam become too predictable. Fahadh is more or less written off while Vijay Sethupathi seems to be trying too hard to make his character feel different from what he did in Master. Narain, as Bejoy, Kaithi’s honest cop, is also overlooked. Even Suriya’s much-hyped cameo, which serves as the lead-up to the next installment in what’s now being called the Lokesh Kanagaraj universe, is a little underwhelming.
The action scenes, although solidly choreographed, never leave us rushed. There are some cool shots, like a zoom out and a zoom in where Karnan and Amar switch places, but after a while the stunts leave us indifferent. In fact, in a film full of action heroes, the biggest mass moment comes in a stunt scene involving a female character. Vikram needed a few moments like this to be truly memorable.
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