Leo poster

Leo

You know how they say “Life is like a box of chocolates…” But in Lokesh’s filmography, including or post-Kaithi, life seems to be like a box of crackers. There are some truly exciting ones that we can reminisce about, along with a bunch of damp squibs. That’s the expectation I’m going to have from him, going forward.

For a change, we might have a film that isn’t about Vijay becoming Thalapathy Vijay. Well, I believed so too, up until the first half – where it’s focused about Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Parthiban hinting at becoming Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Leo. Once the flashback in the second half kicks in, we get into Thalapathy Vijay’s Leo territory.

A lot of the filmmaker’s promises, of this being one hundred percent his film, or there being no intro scene, don’t quite ring true. The hyena sequence, though tied well into the story, is still very much a full-blown intro scene for the hero. The flashback is clearly aimed more towards catering to fans than to generate organic interest for a character. Again, Lokesh is also evidently more Marvel than DC, and him claiming to be DC comes across as just a surface level understanding of those universes where dark equals DC, colourful equals Marvel. He uses the overdone Marvel trait of “bathos” so much in this film, with how he punctures intense moments with trivial comedy (for eg, Mysskin’s “chocolate coffee?” to Sandy). Every single one of these moments make the film seem like its aware of its audience and this tendency peaks in the climax sequence, with Parthiban’s seriousness fading away and a playful Vijay coming to the fore. The genre of background score, the hyped team-ups, and the videogame-ish aesthetic, definitely make this one synonymous with Marvel than anything else.

But there’s never a dull moment in the setup of this film, owing to the filmmaker’s sensibility, in spite of it just being a sincere rehash of its source material. Credit where credit’s due, because this sort of focus on genre film-making is yet to be adopted across the board in Tamil cinema. There’s a strong sense of character for the star. A respectably well-done CG-animal that also fully earns its presence with the writing. The fight sequence in the café set to yesteryear music, is a treat from the filmmaker, who gets to take his romanticism with the 80s and 90s to delightful heights. There’s a banger of a mid-film title reveal. Even the action sequences here are easily the best of Lokesh’s filmography, for how lucid they are, with fewer cuts and more deftly drawn-out punches. The director, editor Philomin, and stunt choreographers Anbu-Arivu are growing with every film, and that’s quite exciting to realise.

Romance and women still aren’t Lokesh’s forte. While he does give them more time, he displays a tendency to make the establishment a little too cutesy and photocard-ish. Small moments like Sathya (Trisha) questioning Parthiban about his R-rated storytelling to their children, are timed randomly, like outside a register office where they’d come as witnesses for a friend’s marriage? These lapses are likely arising from preferring to tighten the screenplay over letting it breath with organic emotions. But the relationship gets better treatment post the setup, with enough “moments” created around them alone. The conversation around trust lands well, with Vijay having more heavylifting to do there, which he manages to pull off with blemishes. The bar is so low with our stars, that it is interesting to see an intense outburst about personal issues over politics.

The winning intrigue of A History of Violence is in not knowing Joey Cusack’s past. Lokesh decides to do away with all that intrigue by writing a flashback for his Leo Das. Okay, there being a flashback isn’t as much a problem as it being utterly generic. Introducing a character in this flashback only to kill them off in the next scene is truly not what one would expect from a film that had exhibited an entirely different sensibility until that point. The disappointment in this filmmaker peaked there. It’s like he decided to stop having fun and do the bare minimum once the script reached this flashback. Even the song sequence is shot in an absolute point-and-shoot manner, with no dynamism in the way the choreography is staged. There’s just scale and nothing else.

I can’t quite blame the second half in its entirety, because there’s enough done to ensure engagement in the “how” of this otherwise predicable screenplay. There are two distinct action sequences with the car chase and the warehouse. It’s the flashback that’s the biggest undoing, the element that pulls this down to a 75% Lokesh film. The establishment of the superstitious family is done through a narration. It’s almost told, not shown. We as an audience aren’t participating in this episode of getting to know what kind of a people Leo Das & Co are. Instead, we’re just supposed to go along with an exposition dump, sister sentiment, convoluted cameos, EDM overdose from Anirudh, and flashy everything else. Instead, I want to know what violence and drugs meant to Leo Das, about the bond with his twin sister, or even a semblance of his worldview. We get all that from Parthiban – for him, all he wants is a humble life with his family – so it makes Leo Das look more like a cartoon than anything else.

Lokesh almost uses the promise of the LCU connect as a crutch to sustain interest in the events of the film. You take that away from this screenplay, and absolutely nothing changes. So naturally, the universe of his feels like it is being reduced to easter eggs. But hope this connect here adds up to something big in the future, but that idea sounds just too big to be true, for now.

I only wish Leo had failed in its pursuit of interesting big-swings rather than by getting generic. It gets so much right, and yet wants to throw it all away by leaning towards frivolous fan-pleasing. But, but, but – I am still going to carry hope for Lokesh Kanagaraj to believe his own sensibilities for the entire length of a film, someday.

Akilan

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Harvinder
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Harvinder
8 months ago

Super 💯 movie Leo 🦁🦁🦁

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