Leo, the third entry into the cinematic universe that Tamil director Lokesh Kanagaraj is crafting, is a movie of two halves: An incredibly gripping and dramatic first half, and a cluttered lacklustre second half.
But the Tamil language film is still supremely enjoyable, and a blast to watch in a packed theatre.
Starting Kaithi in 2019, Lokesh Kanagaraj is attempting to do what very few production houses and directors in India have ever thought possible – establishing a cinematic universe with interwoven characters and storylines.
Lokesh followed up his 2019 sleeper hit with the 2022 super-hit Vikram starring Kamal Haasan.
And now, in 2023, the third chapter of the universe is being written with Leo casting one of the biggest stars in the Tamil industry, Vijay.
Leo is a movie that has been inspired by the David Cronenberg movie A History of Violence.
The first half of the movie plays out as a taut action thriller, with the director doing a phenomenal job establishing the human element of the movie. This makes sure that the audience is invested in and cares about what happens to the protagonists in the rest of the movie.
The one action scene in the first half is also the best one.
But the second half is where the script gets a little muddy. There are unnecessary reveals, way too many mediocre action set pieces, and a twist that the audience can see coming from miles away.
Lokesh, who had made a name for himself for his action scenes in the past two movies attempts to up the ante this time around with larger and more CGI-focused set pieces. But this turns out to be the wrong move, as the CGI in the entire movie looks very unpolished. The audience is acutely aware of when CGI is being used, and when not. This is also why the cafe action scene in the first half is so good, because it uses practically no CGI.
Plus, the motives of the antagonists in the movie just aren’t believable. It comes across as more campy than menacing.
In fact, I would argue that the psychopath character that starts the fight in the cafe action scene is a much better antagonist than Sanjay Dutt and Arjun Sarja. Both Dutt and Sarja feel like templates of other great villains; a much less impressive copy that doesn’t hold a candle to the original thing. They do their jobs as the villains and that’s pretty much it.
To connect Leo to the larger LCU, Lokesh uses several cameos from characters in past movies. And although these cameos are a true joy to watch in the theatre, the connection established is almost paper thin, and doesn’t really create any excitement for the upcoming additions to the LCU.
The cast is packed full of amazing performers, who do their job to varying degrees of success.
Gautham Vasudev Menon as a cop who’s on Vijay’s side does an amazing job, but on the other hand Trisha doesn’t really get the opportunity to shine throughout the film, relegated mostly to reaction shots and exposition.
The true star of the show is Vijay. An actor known not necessarily for his acting chops but rather for his huge fanbase, Vijay puts forth a career-best performance in this movie. His larger-than-life persona perfectly fits into the world of the movie, while his acting chops in the second half actually manage to save the film towards the end.
The background music composed by Anirudh Ravichander is mediocre to be honest. With the exception of the song Naa Ready, none of the other songs or background music used throughout the movie are memorable in any way. This is a far cry from the usual Anirudh musicals where all of his music from previous movies have gone super-viral just because of how catchy they are.
But despite all of its flaws, Leo is fun movie to watch, especially if you’re watching it in a packed theatre. The hooting and cheering that erupt on every hero-shot in the movie really enhanced the experience.
Verdict: A fun weekend watch, but don’t expect anything more.