When a film opens with a climactic sequence on a running train that brings you to the edge of your seat, you wonder what more thrill could be in store. But soon you go back to ensconcing yourself as you decide that similar action in Rajnikanth’s Murattukkaalai of the 1980s was far more realistic. An interesting twist occurs half way through the film and you hope more follow. Director Suraaj has planned the beginning and the midway point of Alex Pandian (U) well.

Karthi’s agility is appreciable and his footwork shows amazing improvement, from what it has been in his half a dozen earlier films. A big budget venture, no doubt, but Suraaj doesn’t hijack his lead pair to foreign shores for the duets. A few initial comedy sequences with Santhanam, and a couple of scenes with Manobala tickle you for a while. Well, these in a nutshell are the pluses of Alex Pandian.

Bashing up men by the dozen, diving through bullets unscathed, acrobatics in mid air, chivalry hidden behind a façade of unpardonable avarice — AP has all the improbabilities we’ve been watching in our super hero films over the decades. Of course, the ever-prevalent Stockholm syndrome among our heroines, which makes them fall for the very men who hold them hostage, is intact too. AP’s Anushka is no exception.

That the story toes a weather-beaten line is an understatement. Nothing about it is new. Neither are the characterisations fresh. A host of villains stomp the screen but none makes a mark, not even Milind Soman.

A ruffian who is solely driven by the mercenary aspect of a deal changing tack to become righteous is an old phenomenon. Karthi tries to infuse spirit and energy into the film with an ample dose of humour, but the story that’s run of the mill and comedy that tires you after a point offer little help.

Karthi should watch out. Instead of plumping for variety in roles, he seems happy with stereotypes. A hero can’t be playing to the gallery always. Aesthetics and subtlety are required too.

Anushka’s role picks up momentum rather late and the heroine has literally slogged it out. You forget her presence after the first sequence, but the beauty re-emerges to impress in the last hour or so. Yet, caught in the cliché of group dances in colourful costumes, the character loses its identity to become predictable.

Santhanam’s soliloquies get stale because you are quite familiar with the trend of his slapstick attempts.

AP’s screenplay plays truant — it is as though Suraaj wakes up suddenly to the fact that too much time has gone by without romantic song sequences and has inserted them in a hurry one after the other. The heroine trying to escape in a motorboat in vain, is much like the Satyaraj-Sivaji Ganesan interaction in Jallikkattu, and hence has no fizz.

Again, the alliterations and rhyme in the dialogue are engaging, but not always is it original. You’ve heard Karthi’s one-liner, when Santhanam’s sisters feed him in a frenzied manner, from Goundamani earlier.

But for the lyric and music of the ‘Thaiya Thaiya’ number, Devi Sriprasad’s score is a let down. And the length of the film that runs well-past the two hour 15 minute mark is a bane. Probably the editors couldn’t do much.