Valimai movie review: H Vinoth’s Valimai begins with a series of chain incidents and a robbery by masked men on bicycles in Chennai. The public rebels against the police, who have no idea. In an internal monologue, the police chief wishes for a super cop to prevent such crimes. The action then shifts to Madurai, where a temple procession is underway. And so does a murder plot. And then we are introduced to ACP Arjun (Ajith Kumar), the film’s protagonist, whose introduction is interspersed with scenes of the procession. Like a God held high, we see this character emerge from the depths (here, from inside a car). In short, a whistle-worthy hero intro scene.
Arjun is assigned to Chennai and begins to investigate a suicide case which appears to be connected to a bigger crime that is brewing. As he begins to follow the case, he realizes that it is connected to the chain robbery and drug dealing cases from before. But when the mastermind of the gang (Kartikeya Gummakonda) realizes that Arjun is onto him, things turn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse, in which Arjun’s family becomes pawns. Can Arjun save both his family and the city from this dangerous criminal?
It’s a clash of stunts and sentiment in Valimai, a somewhat engaging but overly long action flick that hides its simplistic writing with elaborate action set pieces. We continue to feel like Vinoth struggles to strike a balance between making a gritty action movie and meeting the demands of a star vehicle. Despite the ability to root the action scenes in emotion, the film is content to treat them as mere stand-alone sets. This approach is evident in the superficial way the film treats its secondary characters and their relationship with Arjun. It’s mostly a single note – loving mother (Sumithra), drunken brother (Achyuth Kumar), supportive colleague (Huma Qureshi, who gets kicked and then relegated to sidekick) – or worse, caricatures – tattooed corrupt cop (GM Kumar), girlfriend of a goth-looking villain. Even the arc of a despondent brother (Raj Ayyappan) who goes rogue isn’t constructed convincingly. That’s why the film has less impact when we’re not in the middle of an action sequence.
But Vinoth makes up for that with the stunts, which are mostly superbly choreographed big-screen spectacles (Dhilip Subburayan is the stunt choreographer) and are undoubtedly the highlight of the movie. A bike chase in the pre-interval portion and a chase involving a bus, truck, and lots of bikers in the second half are definitely borderline siege things.
Ultimately, Valimai is a battle between good and evil. There are clear analogies with Batman. Like this masked superhero, Arjun also doesn’t believe in killing criminals to eradicate crime. He is often seen dressed in black, his face hidden under a helmet, especially when attacking bad guys. He too comes up against an anarchist who does not believe in society. And at some point, he faces a situation where he has to choose between saving his loved ones and the lives of the public.
And Ajith plays that role like a superhero. He lends credibility to the stunt scenes and tries to elevate the other scenes with his star power. There are times when it works (a scene in prison where he has to break someone’s arm) and times when it doesn’t (the climax monologue). But it is clear that it is his presence that holds together these two distinct tones of the film.
The film was dubbed and released in Hindi, Telugu and Kannada.
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