Director: Abbas A Rahmath
Writers: Abbas A Rahmath, Sasi, Vijay Kumar
Cast: Vijay Kumar, Avinash Raghudevan, Kaarthekeyen Santhanam
Duration: 139 minutes
Available in: Theatres
Abbas A Rahmath takes his time, building up the excitement for important sequences in Fight Club. This slow-burn effect is effectively used in many moments in this film (presented by Lokesh Kanagaraj), the best of which is felt in the very beginning when the protagonist Selva (Vijay Kumar) is introduced. Clad in an MS Dhoni yellow jersey, as he walks into a theatre, he gets an intro sequence that belongs to Rajinikanth, quite literally. You see Thalapathy is playing on the screen and just as the superstar makes his appearance with a massy fight in the rain, we see Selva thrash three men at the theatre. The scene gives such a powerful first impression that makes you want to root for the man in front of you, even if you don't know a lot about him. We get back to this same scene at a later point in the film (thanks to its non-linear format) and this time effect works even better because you now know reason behind the simmering anger in his eyes.
This nonlinear style of filmmaking helps the story because otherwise, Fight Club might feel like your average tale of revenge with one too many fights. It’s a simple story. Set against the North Madras backdrop, when a football-loving kid’s mentor is murdered, so are his dreams. He grows up to become an angry young man trying to hold on to that distant dream when someone seeds the thought of revenge in him. Does his life take a different route?
Selva talks to you a lot through voiceovers — often about family, his mentor Benjamin and life after him. You get the gist, but this technique of telling us things rather than letting us see the events for ourselves, keeps us at a distance from the film’s world. This affects Fight Club’s storytelling because even when someone close to him is affected, you only see the problem but never feel the heaviness of the emotion. You don’t see them play much football or boxing either, which we are told are the lifelines for many in the neighbourhood. The film has no space for a sense of belonging that could’ve helped the screenplay. Even when it tries to root it in North Madras, the film reduces itself to mere cliches associating the neighbourhood with football, drugs and a lot of violence.
This leaves much to be desired because Fight Club is an excellent character study of what vengeance can do to a person. Even the way the revenge game is set up is clever. We already have an antagonist Kiruba (Shankar Thas), a politician and drug peddler who murdered Benjamin. But we also have Benjamin’s brother, who is a touch more nefarious. So when Selva and his gang come into the picture, they realise that there is more to this revenge plan than what meets the eye.
The makers hold your attention for the most part, even when it loses some steam. Fight Club is Selva’s story but there are several other subplots with different characters and motives. While the subplots make the tale interesting, the film doesn’t know when to stop. For instance, a few minutes before the climax, you feel a little confused because suddenly a side character takes prominence and the film makes a detour. But when a person reveals a crucial point later, you understand the need for the side character in the larger picture. It makes you pause and take a moment to appreciate the writing…only for the person to explain too much and overfeed you in the process.
We don’t even have to talk about the heroine’s role because the film doesn’t either. But this romance arc does show us a side of Selva that is not football, fight or revenge and also lets cinematographer Leon Britto add some poetry to this raw, revenge saga. Britto and editor P Kripakaran’s sync only gets better in fight sequences. The slow camera movements and the fast cuts build tension as you’re made to hold your breath to know the aftermath. Britto’s frames are sometimes blurry from all the drugs consumed by its characters. Govind Vasantha’s music adds so much atmospheric tension to the fights, sometimes giving the space for diegetic rap and the sounds of moving buses to elevate a moment.
Fight Club celebrates Vijay Kumar with moments befitting the bigger stars in Kollywood, and the actor owns such sequences with a great screen presence. Amidst all the heroism, the actor lends a certain vulnerability to his character through the minutest of expressions. Whenever predictability kicks in, the performances by several actors including Avinash Raghudevan, Kaarthekeyen Santhanam, Shankar Thas and Saravana Vel keep the film afloat. Predictability and lack of logic do hamper the story. But it’s not that the film entirely lacks the emotional connection or that the screenplay is too convoluted. It’s just that Fight Club needed more space to breathe in between all those fights.