The Actors Outshine The Material In Villain: Movie Review


Starring Mohanlal, Vishal Krishna, Anju Warrier

Directed by B Unnikrishnan

Rating: ***(3 stars)

The thing about Mohanlal is , he sees things that others can’t. And he makes  us see things that other actors cannot.Last year in the very watchable thriller  Oppam he played a blind man whose powers of perception far outstripped those blessed with eyesight.

Since Oppam, Mohanlal has done 5 other films. I missed  4 of them. But I am glad to catch up with the amazingly prolific and versatile actor in this thriller with balls and  heart where he is a cop on the verge  of  retirement yanked back to duty after  a series  of  murders rocks the city.

This  is  not a novel premise to  work a thriller around. Dozens  of Hollywood suspense thrillers  have its cop-protagonist reluctantly getting into the investigative mode just when they would like nothing better than to put up their feet in their livingrooms with a bowl of popcorn and watch  DVDs of old Clint Eastwood or Mohanlal flicks, depending which way  your taste swings.

Villain works fine as long as  it doesn’t begin to lean on Hollywood prototypes. The indigenous strain is  well woven into the thriller.

There is  an element of inextinguishable anxiety in Mohanlal’s recent performances, a man calm on the surface  only because   the other option is so terrible  it could induce a catastrophic emotional geostorm. Villain  builds on Mohanlal’s power to express rage and grief without letting go.

This time he plays his cat-and-mouse game  on  a sleek chessboard where the pieces are laid out neatly, a  little  too neatly , with all the plot points and emotional tropes  indicated to us from afar.We really don’t need to strain  our intellect or tap into our literary resources, although Shakespeare  is casually brought up in  a conversation.

For  company Mohanlal has Vishal Krishna, a remarkably engaging and intelligent actor who  makes the bumpersticker wisdom of his rhetorical dialoguessound like lines borrowed from the latest episodes  of Everybody Loves Raymond. I am  not too sure  if everybody would love Vishal Krishna’s Shaktivel, a smooth-talking  doctor, and a  portrait of moral  ambivalence who stores some surprise that he lets out in the later  portions of  the plot.

This is  strong part for  a co-star in  Mohanlal film and Vishal makes  the  best of it.

The female lead Manju Warrier has less to do. Don’t they always? Still Warrier’s character kind of joins the dots,  fills up the pauses and  bridges the lacuna .  The  director never lets his characters  loose track of their place in the  jigsaw.We  really don’t need to look too closely for motives in this murder mystery. It’s all kind of worked out in  advance and then allowed  to continue building up as it moves forward  to  a climax that  is  not entirely unexpected.

Villain  is not  among the very best works  of  Mohanlal.  But it is  very handsomely mounted and shot.And  it has  a certain grip to its narrative. Although its thrusts at profundity amidst the bouts of  homicidal assault are  to be taken with a pinch of salt, it  nonetheless exudes a distant sophistication  in its storytelling.

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