Rest assured, Thupparivaalan is every bit a Mysskin movie. From the odd camera angles to the staging to the way characters move through the city and the story, the director has brought all his trademark fixtures to the detective drama starring Vishal.
The film plays out a cat-and-mouse game that starts off innocuously enough, with the death of a pet dog. Vishal’s Sherlock Holmes-style detective Kaniyan Pookundran quickly realises that there’s much more afoot when it turns out that the dog was shot with a 9mm bullet.
The winding trail of murders that unfolds from this first discovery is certainly hard to swallow at times, but never completely unbelievable. And it is certainly never boring. What works for the film is that it’s not in a hurry to show all its cards as quickly as possible. But it’s not relying on a big ‘surprise twist’ either, which is a relief because there are few Indian thrillers that have successfully pulled off a mind-blowing plot twist.
And Mysskin certainly has some nicely-scripted scenes to offer. Like the first time you see the gang of villains walk in together, you’re completely disarmed when they sit down to eat scrambled eggs. And just when you’re confused about what’s going on, one of them casually opens the refrigerator to reveal a dead body.
Along the way, Mysskin also delivers some genuinely thrilling action sequences that show off exciting technical proficiency. One of the best parts of these fight sequences is that they vary drastically in texture, so that you don’t feel like you’re watching the same fight again and again. These sequences, at least, are every bit as exciting as the quick cuts in the trailer, a big feat for any Tamil film.
The one big misstep the film makes is with the quite unnecessary sub-plot involving a pickpocket named Mallika (Anu Emmanuel), which seems to have been inserted only to show Kaniyan’s socially-awkward but generous heart. Unfortunately, though, this relationship simply swings between illogical and sentimental, reaching a maudlin high point that could easily have been kept out.
Part of the problem is a lack of work on Kaniyan’s character. Borrowed all too obviously from the recent Sherlock Holmes films and TV series, Vishal’s Kaniyan attempts to replicate the manic energy of Robert Downey Jr and the kooky eccentricity of Benedict Cumberbatch and fails at both. The film generally struggles with writing the kind of dialogue that would give us a quirky but likeable lead.
Vishal needs to up his acting game before he can walk that fine line between fun and just plain weird. Prasanna is more convincing as the Watson-like foil to the master detective. Among the baddies Andrea Jeremiah brings a good deal of cool to the film. That she puts up a good fight, almost taking down Kaniyan near the climax is certainly a big plus for the film.
Thupparivaalan is a long way off from being the perfect detective thriller, lacking that subtle but sure touch that slowly and almost imperceptibly ratchets up the tension, until you suddenly realise you’re at the edge of your seat. But Mysskin brings enough adrenaline to the film that you won’t leave the theatre bored.