Vathikuchi is not so much bad in the way it is executed but the story just gets progressively mind-numbingly stupid.

The follow up to the successful Engeyum Eppothum, A.R. Murugadoss’s second home brew for Fox Star Studios has a lot of expectations going forward.

In pretty much the same formula, the narrative attempts to be realistic and gritty; its protagonists are people with average means and dreams; and the techniques employed — the head-on bus crash sequence in EE if you recall — are all state of the art.

But it is surprising how expectations work. Where one had none of it with EE, it delivered. With Vathikuchi, it just flatters to deceive heavily.

The protagonist is share-auto driver Shakti (played by A.R. Murugadoss’s brother Dileepan), who lives in the low-income housing colony of Samathuvapuram off the Old Mahabalipuram Road, swallows the idlis his mother (Sharanya Ponvannan) makes, yearns for his neighbour Leena (Anjali), and indulges in some good Samaritan behaviour that pits him against a scum of the society.

There are three groups that want Shakti dead, for various reasons. The director paces his story back and forth through the first half, slowly unveiling how seemingly unrelated events of the hero’s past eventually catch up with him and pose a life and death scenario.

The big reveal in this film is how criminal gangs operate in broad daylight in Chennai with such impunity that anything seems plausible — from goondas threatening someone at an ATM with a knife to his neck to baby-faced sales executives overnight turning gun-totting extortionists.

In fairness, there are things to like in Vathikuchi. The intricate detailing in the lives of the low-income underbelly of Chennai, their very simple aspirations — the heroine attends an English tutorial — and such.

Vathikuchi is not so much bad in the way it is executed but the story just gets progressively mind-numbingly stupid. It is a movie that does not fit into any genre properly, and that is the failure of the narrative. It is neither a neo-noir thriller of the likes of Aranya Kandam nor is it an engaging drama like Engeyum Eppodhum.

Dileepan seems adequate for the part in the first half of the film till in the later half he transforms into a wannabe Rajinikanth. Anjali reprises the same role she played in EE, even mouthing similar dialogues. On the technical front, the camerawork by R.B. Gurudhev, editing by Praveen K.L. and N.B. Srikanth, art direction by Sanjay Karan and stunt direction by Rajasekar are all above par. One just wishes that the makers had been judicious in their use of the ultra slow motion effects in the action sequences. Pioneered by the likes of Guy Ritchie in the Sherlock Holmes reboot, this technique is most abused in action films closer home.

M. Ghibran once again raises the promise of being a music director to look forward to but still seems to not completely fulfil expectations. Maybe the right subject would deliver him the stardom he rightfully deserves.

Vathikuchi

Genre: Crime thriller

Cast: Dileepan, Anjali, Saranya Manivannan, Sampath, Jeyaprakash, Jegan

Plot: A share-auto driver gets entangled in a plot where several criminals want him dead.

Bottomline: A below average action movie