Language: Malayalam

Cast: Nivin Pauly, Manjima Mohan, Unni Mukundan

Director: Haneef Adeni

It’s halfway into Mikhael and things have only begun to heat up. Marco (a buff Unni Mukundan) is out to avenge his brother’s murder, and he knows the killer and where he lives. Marco is rich, armed and dangerous and we’re expecting an ambush. A gunshot will do, or a strategically placed bomb. Judging by his muscles, he can even squeeze his enemies into submission, like a python. But he’s a different beast, the kind that believes in playing mind games. So he walks into his adversary’s villa, takes off his clothes and (wait for it) takes a shower in one of the bathrooms! The bad boy doesn’t even need a towel after. He just gets out, colorful briefs and all, and drives away in his Jaguar. “Why kill them when you can dampen their carpets?” Marco must have thought, menacingly.

This is just one of the gems that make up Haneef Adeni’s Mikhael. Not to sound old but back in my day, directors would at least have lasted a decade before they’re accused of being repetitive and unoriginal. But Adeni, who made Mammotty’s The Great Father (2017) and wrote Abrahaminte Sandhadhikal (2018), already seems to have run of fresh ideas. The barrage of slow motion shots is back and so is the unending supply of Christian imagery and symbols. Not that there is any attempt at subtlety here. Even the titular Mikhael is Nivin Pauly’s Michael John, a doctor and/or guardian angel entrusted to protect his young sister from a gang of gold smugglers. The sister was instrumental in a classmate’s suicide and the victim’s father (Siddique) wishes the same fate upon her.

But these are all mere embellishments on the sole purpose of the film, which is to enlarge Nivin Pauly’s image to that of a mass action star. Of course, there were traces of it even in the recent Kayamkulam Kochunni, but that film had the weight of a legend to back the punches. The same cannot be said about Mikhael where he’s more of an everyman. That’s why it’s harder to buy into the many elaborate-yet-uninspired action scenes even when you’re told that not-so-agile Michael is a Karate expert, capable of taking on a dozen men.

This is disappointing because in there somewhere is fodder for a moving drama. Michael was behind his father’s accidental death. A “patricide”, as he is mocked in school, Michael grows up distant from his mother, who chooses to remarry. A complex family situation involving the step father is hinted at but never really explored. Even his equation with the mother could really have added up to some drama but that too gets just two scenes. And this in a film in which a villain gets an elaborate slow motion sequence just to show him changing into a mundu.

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This is what happens when you think terms of sequences rather than a cohesive screenplay. For instance, early on in the film, an assassin is hired to murder a family carrying a bag of gold. Now, isn’t being discreet a part of the job, even if you’re interning to become a hired gun? But instead, the assassin shows up in winter clothes in humid Kochi carrying a silenced hand-held pistol driving a bright red convertible. Whatever happened to thou shalt not kill just for style?

All this would have been forgivable had it all nicely melded into the creation of a world, like how the director sees it. But there are far too many tonal issues and visual inconsistencies to interpret any of this as style.

And then you get Gopi Sundar’s booming soundtrack. It’s obtrusive, distracting and over-the-top to the point where you think the composer must have been watching some other film while scoring this one. Given the popularity of the last two films this director was a part of, I guess he finds his takers. But there’s only so much I can take from a film that breaks so many commandments of mainstream filmmaking.


Rating:   star

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