Valimai : film review
2 stars out of 5 (average)
Director : h. Vinoth
Cast : ajith kumar, huma qureshi, kartikeya gummakonda
Tamil (english subtitiles available), 2022
Compared to Hollywood Superheroes like Superman and his ilk, certain other Superheroes do not need Spandex suits with iconic designs or hundred-million-dollar production budgets. This type of Superhero, right from Captain Prabhakaran (1991) will achieve justice and mow down armies with just his incredible fists, all at just a fraction of the investment. The newest addition to this pantheon is ‘Valimai’s Assistant Commissioner of Police Arjun Kumar (Ajith Kumar) who sends the baddies flying into the clouds of the Tamil Nadu sky. He solves cases and processes logic so fast that it would make Sherlock Holmes weep with an inferiority complex.
A marauding gang of bikers start wreaking the most Satanic havoc, from murders to chain snatchings. They’re not from the 1970s either, using their smartphones to scan elaborate graffiti from a building side, which then instructs them on the “dark web” about the next infernal task to do. The land is terrified and only one person can secure the dominion. Quick Gun Murugan is on covid leave, so it will have to be none other than ACP Arjun Kumar - a middle-aged, innocuous looking man.
The film’s strongest assets are its break-neck action sequences, and the societal and moral wisdom that the film gives us in the first half. Writer (and director) H. Vinoth and Ajith collaborate to ignite snappy, hard-hitting social insights that would no doubt grease the film’s earnings. Arjun locks up the small fry baddies but makes sure they have enough money for bail or else the super-goons might hold them in debt forever. Chain-snatching, he tells the blithely presumptuous round table of commissioners, is not a “petty crime”, because that chain is hard-earned by the modest families and is also life-saving insurance in case bankruptcy threatens. Unemployment becomes a telling villain in the movie, its insidious clutches inspiring an amoral gang led by a dastardly leader (played by Kartikeya Gummakonda in a scowling, muscular and venomous alpha role that is the film’s best act).
Two intensely long action sequences stand out. One is where Arjun rises from torture to mount a motorbike and scorch the turf as he chases his assailants, with repeated leaps skyward from steep ramps. The second is an epic bus chase sequence on a highway, as deadly bikers surround the bus attempting to free the prisoners inside. This sports truly zippy action as Arjun maneuvers the large vehicle to evade and fight the bikers, who eventually infiltrate it like invading viruses.
Alas, even though Tamil Nadu is home to some of the world’s best action choreographers in hand-to-hand filmed fights, ‘Valimai’s man-to-man fights are disappointing, with frequent fast-cutting to obscure the action. The same issue afflicts some of the bike stunts. Crisp editing is integral to action scenes no doubt, but over-cutting and underconfident action choreography often afflict this picture.
The bigger bane is superstar Ajith’s insistence on the film revolving around him. Other superheroes have circumvented this problem with consistently excellent storylines which H. Vinoth is unable to sustain. Eventually, we keep coming back to how selfless, virtuous and clever Arjun is. The social do-gooder angle is done to death. You can bet your last Parippu Vada that come what cataclysm, there will be the final scene of the hero striding down the passage with people clapping, flowers and confetti raining down, the lady coyly walking behind. Many other movies junked this male chauvinism ages ago, but ‘Valimai’ wheelies in a la la land of its own.
Huma Qureshi, as a narcotics cop, is reduced to playing thoroughly thankless second fiddle. After the film’s release, Qureshi was reported in the news to be floored by the love of Ajith fans. Boy is she in for a treat ! especially when she plays trophy sidekick to other industry superheroes in future fan films.
Despite its elaborate action sequences and societal homilies, ‘Valimai’ ultimately devolves into being a mediocre experience because of its hero-sanctifying mania, rough sensibilities, resurgence of cliches and virtue signalling that degrades from the powerful to the gratuitous.
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