If you have been excited about Leo as a Lokesh Kanagaraj film, it wouldn’t be much of a spoiler to know that the movie is indeed set in his creative universe, the LCU. The good thing about this 100% Lokesh Kanagaraj movie is that Lokesh gets to break the template of a fan service superstar film, and my joy in watching Leo came mainly from the fact that it was very much an action entertainer that rarely tried to be wholesome. Being set in the LCU is perhaps the only thing that makes the movie slightly inferior, as the other two films in this universe had a more evident craft-rich signature.
The movie is about a Tamilian named Parthiban who lives in Himachal and runs a cafe. His family comprises of his wife and two kids. The happy life of these souls took a drastic turn when Parthi had to take down a few bad guys who tried to rob his cafe and attack his daughter. The savior fame caused more trouble for Parthi as gangsters took a particular interest in him as they believed he was Leo, one of the key figures in the drug business run by Antony Das. We witness how this link with Leo causes trouble for Parthiban in this Lokesh Kanagaraj movie.
At the film’s beginning, Lokesh Kanagaraj tells us that the story is inspired by David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence. And when you look at how he has adapted that story to the sensibilities of an over-the-top Tamil action entertainer, I would say he has cracked a believable middle ground. What makes A History of Violence cinematically compelling is how it studies character from the aspect of violence. That is something commercial movies here rarely do, and it was good to see a mainstream film with a hero who cries out loud after committing a violent act of crime.
The movie’s writing that tries to stay close to the genre rather than making it a package makes this movie strikingly different from the other movies that Vijay has done under the Thalapathy label. As Lokesh has claimed in his pre-release interviews, there is no huge introduction scene, there is no opening dance, and there aren’t many punch dialogues in the film. When an action movie featuring Vijay manages to be engaging without these three essential tools, I think that somewhere explains why Lokesh Kanagaraj is a superb filmmaker.
The only issue I had with the film was the lack of strength in resolving the conflict in the third act. When you have powerful names like Sanjay Dutt and Arjun playing the parts of the antagonists, you expect the showdown to be a little more intricate. Even though the mystery behind the character created an element of fun, I expected that part of the script to have a bit more complexity as that phase has a grey shade when you look at the relationship between these characters.
The cinematography by Manoj Paramahamsa has that slightly Western aesthetic, which I believe Lokesh likes in his movies. It was interesting to see the use of the high-speed bolt camera in specific sequences to improve the visual experience. Anirudh’s background score fits the movie’s theme, but if you expect the tunes to stay in your head, you will be slightly disappointed. The film’s visual effects and the stunt sequences’ design were really impressive. The natural texture that was sort of missing in the trailer in the Hyena sequence and car chase was fixed in the movie, and the film could have been affected really badly if those sequences looked tacky.
From cussing and kissing to crying out of fear, we see a shade of Vijay that I would say has not been explored much. In my observation, the only signature move I could notice was how he tilted his face with his fist in that final fight. Other than that, we could clearly see the movie and the actor in Vijay trying to achieve something different. Sanjay Dutt as Antony Das fits the part as he has that intimidating physical presence. Arjun as Harold Das was also convincing, and I sort of expected the movie to have an elaborate showdown between Harold and Parthi. Trisha, as Parthiban’s wife Shakti, was really good. Since the film has not drifted away too much from A History of Violence, the wife character has that prominence when the hero is in that emotionally troubled space.
Mathew Thomas, as Parthi’s son Sidharth, makes a memorable debut in Tamil. Gautham Menon plays an extensive role in the film as the family’s close aide in dealing with the police. Mansoor Ali Khan, who was initially supposed to do Kaithi, gets a small role here, and it was nice to see that glimpse of him eating Biriyani like the way Dilli does in that song sequence. SPOILER ALERT! The way the audience picked up George Maryan’s character was such a delight to experience in a theater.
Kaithi was a single-night action film, and Vikram had this suspense building around the character, and both these films had this night theme. So, Leo might feel like a slightly inferior thriller compared to those movies with craft-oriented experiments. But like I said in the beginning, the way it takes an effort to break the cliches and “must haves” of big releases with only adequate dilution to the source material gives it the scope to be a game changer.
The way it takes an effort to break the cliches and "must haves" of big releases with only adequate dilution to the source material gives it the scope to be a game changer.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended