Leo was supposed to tap into Vijay's untapped potential for performance and showcase his acting skills on a scale never seen before. But, it doesn't happen.
The Story: Leo is inspired by the graphic book novel A History Violence. But the core plot of the movie is something very familiar to us. It's about a seemingly ordinary man with an extraordinary past.
Review: Parthiban (Vijay) is living a peaceful and content life with his family — wife Sathya (Trisha), a teenage son, and a younger daughter, played by Mathew Thomas and Iyal, respectively. It's unclear why a man of his nature would have an armoury in his backyard, producing swords, bows, arrows and various sizes and shapes of knives required for a battle. Let's move on.
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Parthiban's life turns upside down when his cafe restaurant in a sleepy hilly town comes under attack by a gang of fugitives. A psychopathic killer, played by Sandy, threatens the modesty of one of Parthiban's female employees and the safety of his daughter, forcing the protagonist to resort to killing.
How come an ordinary owner of a coffee bar is so good at killing people? wonders the whole town, the cops, and the court. Parthiban is put through the pushing process of the law for the crime of defending himself and other innocent lives from dreaded killers.
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And all this drama plays out with a strong emotional core and fails to capture the struggles of a man who feels powerless to prevent his seemingly perfect life from collapsing. Instead, what we see are half-baked scenes made by a filmmaker who is in a hurry to rush through the mundane parts so that he can focus on the interesting parts of the story, which are high-octane action sequences choreographed by stunt master Anbarivu.
The story loses its energy soon, and the narrative becomes primarily driven by jumping from one action scene to another. It's as if Lokesh doesn't know what to do in the intervals between the movie's action sequences. The one genuine moment in the film is when Parthiban, driven by concern for his family's safety, finds solace in a heartfelt hug with his 10-year-old daughter.
All the plot devices that director Lokesh Kanagaraj and his team of screenwriters use are borrowed from the old playbook of making routine potboilers. Trisha's Sathya, for example, reacts to the high-stake life-and-death situations like a typical housewife that we have seen in plenty of Tamil movies. So are Sanjay Dutt's Antony Das and Arjun's Harold Das — they play typical villains committing typical villainy. There's no flair or originality to these characters.
We also get the usual wife of a gangster, who vows not to bury her husband until the men in her family bring her the head of Parthiban. This narrative technique has been around since the 1980s.
"Leo will be 100 per cent Lokesh Kanagaraj movie ," said the young director in almost all interviews he gave before the movie's grand release. What is a Lokesh Kanagaraj movie? What are the qualities and features that define a typical Lokesh Kanagaraj movie? Now, that question needs some deep reflection before we can answer it. Not just the audience, but even Lokesh needs to consider this question as he continues to build a brand name for himself in the Indian film industry.
But the main question is: did Lokesh deliver on the promise he made before the release? The answer is, disappointingly, no. If anything, Leo is a 100 percent Vijay movie. In fact, Lokesh's Master was, in many ways, a departure from the typical Vijay formula. But Leo rests entirely on Vijay's stardom, and it demands very little of the actor's talents.
Leo was supposed to tap into Vijay's untapped potential for performance and showcase his acting skills on a scale never seen before. But it doesn't happen in this movie.
Lokesh's screenplay, which he jointly wrote with filmmakers Rathna Kumar and Deeraj Vaidy, relies heavily on Vijay's star value to compensate for its narrative shortcomings. In the past, Vijay's screen presence and his goodwill with his fans have even made the most uninspiring and dull materials work. So, it's not a surprise that Leo might engage the target audiences. The real question is whether Leo can work without Vijay's stardom.
The verdict: If you are a fan of action movies, Vijay, or curious about whether or not Leo is part of LCU, this film will fit the bill.