Haneef Adeni has, by now, established what to expect from his films. Revenge, style, Biblical allusions, plenty of English dialogues and some family drama driving the whole thing. While his first two films were with veteran actor Mammootty, Mikhael is with Nivin Pauly, one of the younger generation's most promising stars. But even if you go in fully knowing the typical Haneef Adeni fare and the fact that the film is about a "matchless macho" hero, Mikhael falls several notches short.
The story has repeat elements from The Great Father and Abrahaminte Santhathikal - a family member is wronged, there's a police officer investigating a crime, and you have the hero playing avenger.
The film begins with a confusing sequence that introduces us to numerous characters, none of them leaving much of an impact. They scowl, growl, walk slowly to zany background music (Gopi Sundar) and die rather quickly. I wondered at this point if I had missed the beginning of the film - had it actually started before the ads were played, paused and then played again after the ads? Such is the incoherence of this segment.
Visaranai fame Kishore as an upright cop from Tamil Nadu comes and dies within minutes. JD Chakravathy as the investigating cop, Eesa, tries to look very intelligent looking at blood splatter on the floor. He maintains this montonous grave face throughout the film. Kalabhavan Shajon, too, comes and goes before you can register his character's name. Only Siddique as George Peter, chief villain, stays in the mind.
Once you get past the beginning though, there are some enjoyable moments of light humour. Nivin Pauly shines in this stretch as Michael, a young doctor at a hospital who is forever getting bullied or beaten. In sharp contrast is his sister, Jenny, who is trained in karate and is rather irritated by her brother's lack of spine. The banter between the siblings as well as the hospital scenes with Baiju are hilarious (perhaps Haneef Adeni should try a comedy next?), but once the evil villains walk into the script, it all goes downhill.
Not that the performances themselves are bad. Siddique and the actor who plays Jenny, in particular, impress. But the whole set-up defies any kind of logic to make us take the film seriously. Poor Shanthi Krishna is stuck with a role that can be aptly described as 'World's Worst Parent'. The adults are all either strangely absent (there's one bullying scene at a school where every floor is covered with kids screaming and egging the fight on and not a single teacher is present - did they all go on a staff picnic?) or make bewilderingly foolish decisions. You'll also end up thinking that there's exactly one cop in the whole of Kerala, the way the family behaves when it receives a serious threat. They don't try other channels for help (call the media, make a Facebook post, call your uncle's second cousin who is a politician...something) and are content to play sitting ducks.
When the titles are played, we're shown the guardian Mikhael story in animation. He fights Satan, who is in the form of a serpent, but the serpent then turns into the caduceus symbol of doctors - to make a link between that Mikhael and our doctor Michael. But the portrayal of doctors itself had me scratching my head. One doctor tells his patient who has gone to him for help to deal with his violent desires that he's simply crazy (World's Worst Mental Health Professional FTW), another catches a family member attempting suicide and thinks his job is done by preventing it (no follow-up, no counselling - why waste time?), and then there's Manjima Mohan who is a doctor and supposedly "heroine", but could have been a table lamp and it would have made no difference whatsoever.
Nivin's transformation from Michael to guardian angel Mikhael is convincing only in spurts because of the poor writing. While he's good at humour and romance, the action scenes need work - more speed and less talking.
For one, an actor playing the lead in such films which are heavily dependent on style and swagger and less on everyday, believable events, needs to be entirely convinced about what he's doing on screen. When Rajinikanth flicks his cigarette, for instance, he is 100% confident that he doesn't look silly. Nivin, on the other hand, seems out of sorts with what he's required to do. In one scene, he's fighting goons and talking to his sister over phone and he pauses to look into the camera and say, "Your brother will be back, dear" - the actor seems half-embarrassed by how ridiculous this is, and it shows on his face. In fact, there's a Kaala-type umbrella fight scene in Mikhael which starkly shows the difference between an actor who thrives on such scenes and another who is distinctly uncomfortable.
Jayaprakash, Sudev Nair, and Unni Mukundan mostly glower at each other, with the younger actors showing off their fitness levels occasionally by doing push-ups and hand-stands. Sudev Nair's nose-ring and Unni Mukundan's boxers are all that I remember of their roles in the film, unfortunately. And oh, Marco (Unni Mukundan) also has a weird obsession with shit.
The shoddy editing doesn't make it easier to follow this confusing narrative with too-many-characters. Suraj Venjaramoodu is under-utilised as is KPAC Lalitha who hardly seems to move from the dining table.
If you don't care much for sense in a script, and you are happy eating your popcorn while people are flying on screen, Mikhael may well be what the doctor ordered. But if you are, unfortunately, the type that is turned off by thrillers which have more holes than a sieve, Mikhael will leave you in need of a resurrection by the time it draws to an end.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.