B Unnikrishnan directorial Villain is a crime thriller about a cop who loses his family. No, that's not a spoiler. The families, in almost every Indian cop film that you watch, only exist to be slaughtered or harmed in some way. The surprise here is that Mathew IPS (a stylish Mohanlal with a salt and pepper beard) doesn't quite take the route that you'd expect him to.
However, this surprise isn't quite enough to knock your socks off. The film plods along in a predictable vein and with a good dose of pretentiousness. But we'll get to that later.
It's lovely to see Manju Warrier and Mohanlal romancing on screen. The couple shares a palpable chemistry and the best scenes in the film undoubtedly belong to their shared moments. Although a brief role, Manju lights up the screen and the relationship between them comes across as genuine even though neither character is defined beyond a few broad strokes.
It is perhaps for the first time that Raashi Khanna as Harshita Chopra, a cop, and Hansika as Shreya, a qualified doctor, have not had the camera obsessing with their navel or other body parts. Raashi Khanna, especially, pulls off the "migrant labourer" cop (as someone cheekily remarks) well. Srikanth, as the "migrant villain", though, is disappointing and very little imagination has gone into his character. A shiny suit is all he gets.
While the film gets cracking from the very first scene where we're shown a triple murder, it sags visibly as the narrative progresses. There's too much talking and philosophy-doling which makes the screenplay bloated.
In one scene, Mathew declares that he knows his Shakespeare. He recalls how Lady Macbeth said all the perfumes of Arabia couldn't sweeten her hand after she'd committed a murder. Except, Lady Macbeth never kills anyone in the Shakespeare play. She only instigates her husband to do so. This isn't so humongous an error but it sticks out like a sore thumb when the film throws such lines at you at every opportunity. In another scene, a man is betrayed by someone and he goes, "You too?" (the popular mistranslation of 'Et tu..' which is really 'And you...') I almost heard a Brutus emerge from his mouth.
The film seeks to wrestle with lofty ideas of revenge and justice but the cat and mouse game is not clever enough. Vishal, as Dr Shaktivel Palanisamy, tries to hold up the game but the poor writing lets him down. The scenes between him and Mathew are supposed to be tense but the lengthy dialogues kill them off.
Much noise was made about Villain being the first film to be shot in 8K resolution and yes, the frames do look impressive. But neither that nor Mohanlal's style are enough to save the film.