Raghavendra Prasad’s directorial debut “54321” is a revenge thriller that begins on a high note, hits a few bumps and then totters its way to a somewhat tame end.
Prasad credits a host of films for having inspired him, but James Wan’s “Saw” is not among them. “54321”, though, has a certain striking resemblance to the “Saw” series where a psychopath captures people and gives them a repulsive choice that they must make if they are to save their lives.
In “54321”, Vinoth (Aarvin GR) has to do the same if he’s to save his wife Anjali’s (Pavithra Gowda) life. The man playing mind-games here is Vikram (Shabeer), a blast from Vinoth’s past. Vikram’s twisted motives are revealed through a flashback sequence that is let down by some amateur scripting and weak performances. All the well-meaning adults in Vikram’s life appear to be thick-headed and insensitive to the young boy’s feelings leading him to commit acts of desperate violence.
The film also reminds one of Kamal’s “Aalavandhan”, which was about two sparring siblings, one who succeeds in life and another who is condemned to breathe and come alive only in darkness.
Shabeer as Vikram is convincing in some portions but is unable to bring the kind of menace that a script like this demands. After a while, his count-downs to commit further acts of brutality appear repetitive and aren’t as chilling as the first time around.
The film would have benefitted from stronger performances from the cast. With the exception of Jayakumar who plays a thief caught in the muddle, the other performances come across as one-note for the most part.
The romance between Vinoth and Anjali is sketchy and poorly written. The chemistry between them simply does not work and this lets the film down because the tension in the story depends on how far Vinoth will go to save Anjali. The oddly calm child who sits through all the gore in the room does not help matters.
Joshua Sridhar’s background score works well, setting the mood and building tension adequately. Despite the “medical miracle” ending, “54321” is a fairly gripping watch that doesn’t reach the standard set by “Pizza” (Raghavendra Prasad pays a tribute to his guru’s film along the way) but is worth a watch nevertheless. It does not quite take off like a rocket but doesn’t fall to a zero either.