Review: 'Leo' is a 'bloody sweet' return to form for Thalapathy Vijay & a step ahead in the LCU
The film is another reminder on how, when the right director has the reigns, the usage of a humongous star on-screen is done with finesse and impact.
Published: Thursday,Oct 19, 2023 18:35 PM GMT-06:00
This is the Thalapathy Vijay film the fans wanted and deserve as well. After two rather mediocre outings in the form of Beast and Varisu, it wouldn't be unfair to say that both Vijay and his fans were yearning for something spectacular.
And this led to Vijay reuniting with the master himself, Lokesh Kanagaraj - with whom he delivered the blockbuster, Master. Now a part of the LCU (Lokesh Cinematic Universe), Vijay stars in 'Leo'. Having had the chance to see the film beforehand and also in a theater packed with Vijay fans here's what I thought about it-
What A Unique Voice - Lokesh Kanagaraj
You can have your agreements and disagreements on Kanagaraj's films in terms of liking or not liking it but one thing that no can deny is just how original, unique and distinct his voice is and hence, his style of direction. Few directors have this ability to have their own style by never being too indulgent and still being marked as 'their style' and Kanagaraj is amongst the top dogs there.
The innovation that he brings to his screenplay and furthermore the way scenes are shot is a cinephile's delight. There are approximately three long one-take sequences which isn't a novelty per se but even here, the director was imaginative as he went on to have a long drone cam one-take. It is some of the finest cinematography decisions that delivers perfection. And thus, with Kanagaraj, I give special plaudits to cinematographer Manoj Paramahamsa, who understood the assignment incredibly well.
The Thalapathy Vijay we love and deserve
After hitting the PAN-India status, it has become increasingly important for stars like Thalapathy Vijay to crack that balance of being accepted in all belts while bringing something new to the table. That's where Beast and Varisu faltered as inspite of ample fan service, those films still felt dated and pretty much blah! And hence, Vijay collaborating with Kanagaraj again almost felt like a conscious move and thus we got Leo.
Jumping the hoops of linear storytelling, we get Vijay, once again, giving ample fan service, being invincible at a few instances but just exhibiting the perfect amount of vulnerability and swagger that's needed for a mega star like him to connect. Somehow, he also looks more agile than he did recently - a testament to his hardwork off-screen because working with Kanagaraj can be a gruesome task given how much he loves to innovate and experiment. But fortunately, we can say Vijay is BACK with a bang!
The Music & BGM
The professional marriage between Lokesh Kanagaraj and music director, Anirudh Ravichander should never end! No matter what! I am still fascinated by Ravichander's real-life revelation as to how the director doesn't have any meetings or talks with him and just trusts him blindly with the music for his films.
This led him to create masterpieces like Vikram and Master soundtrack and it's nothing less in Leo. The constantly thumping but not loud, rousing but not overdone music and background score, English lyrics and just a vibe in general is just the perfect assistance the film needs. The massy song, Na Reddy also somehow fits perfectly but nothing can beat the title track, Leo Das is a Badass! So film can release and whatever happens but I already cannot wait for the entire soundtrack and background score to drop.
The Flaws & Runtime
To give a further reality check, Leo is not devoid of its many flaws. One of the biggest is its supremely predictable and linear storyline. For a film that's achieving several technical marvels and I have repeatedly called them unique above, there's nothing unique about the film's story and characterisation. And this further affects the long runtime of the film. Clocking 2 hours 44 minutes, the second half becomes a drag and the developments keep getting more and more bland. Sanjay Dutt as the antagonist, Antony Das does have an initial impact but perishes with time and his outcome seems convenient.
While Vijay is of course at the forefront, the film lacks good supporting characters except a couple. Trisha Krishnan, an A-lister has a bit more to do then what Malvika Mohanan had to in Master but it's still not enough.
Finally, the inclusion of LCU - we know that Kanagaraj has now created this fantastic and intriguing cinematic universe that has so much potential especially after he delivered the brilliant Vikram last year which already had nuggets of Kaithi. The continuation of this in Leo is fun but not entirely satisfactory. Leo should have been a bigger step forward but apart from the two instances of blending worlds, it becomes a mild service to the cause.
In the end, Leo is not the director man's best film by any margin but it definitely is a huge comeback to form for Thalapathy Vijay.
The film is another reminder on how, when the right director has the reigns, the usage of a humongous star on-screen is done with finesse and impact. Onward and upward to the future entirely in the universe and watching stalwarts share the screen ahead.
Rating - ***1/2 (3.5/5)