‘Por Thozhil’ movie review: Sarath Kumar and Ashok Selvan shoulder a brilliant investigative thriller

Debutant director Vignesh Raja has pulled off a phenomenal job with ‘Por Thozhil’, making the minor mishaps almost feel like a product of nitpicking

June 09, 2023 11:58 am | Updated 02:00 pm IST

Sarath Kumar and Ashok Selvan in a still from ‘Por Thozhil’

Sarath Kumar and Ashok Selvan in a still from ‘Por Thozhil’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

An average person’s body temperature is 37°C and as a dead body loses around one-degree Celsius per hour, checking the body’s temperature at the crime scene will give a rough idea of how many hours back the murder was committed. When a novice cop on his first assignment deduces this, his mentor, along with the audience, is taken aback by the ingenuity. Such intelligent characters are a product of smart writing and that’s what sets apart Por Thozhilfrom other investigative thrillers we’ve gotten accustomed to thanks to OTT platforms’ fascination with the genre.

Por Thozhil (Tamil)
Director: Vignesh Raja
Cast: Sarath Kumar, Ashok Selvan, Nikhila Vimal 
Run-time: 147 minutes
Storyline: An unlikely duo, a veteran cop and a rookie, team up to nab a serial killer

Buddy cop movies that foreign films familiarised us with involve two people of very different and conflicting personalities who are forced to work together to solve a crime, sometimes learning from each other in the process. While films like In the Heat of the Night and Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog (which was also the inspiration for 8 Thottakkal), defined the genre, post the 80s, films like Beverly Hills Cop, Tango & Cash, Rush Hour, Bad Boys and even Lethal Weapon made the genre synonymous with action-comedy films. Closer home, the best example one can think of is Kuruthipunal and Por Thozhil toofinds itself a neat spot in that elusive list. Por Thozhil, the story of a seasoned police officer Lokanathan (Sarath Kumar) paired with a young recruit Prakash (Ashok Selvan), and the dichotomy between the two characters, heavily reminded me of Stray Dog and Lethal Weapon but the similarities stop there. While the two leads warming up to each other is the underlying motive of the film, they don’t have time for an ice-breaking session as a serial killer is on the loose.

Both tracks - the one involving the unlikely duo getting into a groove and the other being the hunt for the killer - have their fair share of fantastic moments and downers. But it is how these plots blend together seamlessly that tends to leave us permissive of the minor misses. Speaking of which, the lengths the film goes to in order to establish the two primary characters’ demeanours as two ends of an extremely wide spectrum felt a little fanciful. Letting Prakash talk about his impressive academic achievements and displaying Lokanathan’s acumen when he surmises the killer’s motives aren’t the same as Prakash being ostensive of bringing his shooting medal with him on a work trip and Lokanathan being needlessly curt to fellow officers. Because, by then, the film has already established Prakash to be book-smart and jittery while Lokanathan is street-smart, reclusive and hardened due to years of service. Also, the psychopath killer’s motive and attributes could’ve been fleshed out in a better manner. A better casting choice would have probably made us get more accustomed to that character, given the limited screen time. For a film that pulls off a brilliant casting coup for an integral character - if not for the whole film - doing it again wouldn’t have been a challenge.

Sarath Kumar, Ashok Selvan and Nikhila Vimal in a still from ‘Por Thozhil’

Sarath Kumar, Ashok Selvan and Nikhila Vimal in a still from ‘Por Thozhil’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Debutant director Vignesh Raja, who has written the film with Alfred Prakash, has pulled off a phenomenal job with the rest of the film, making the minor mishaps almost feel like a product of nitpicking. Their confidence in the story is evident given the lack of action sequences despite having two cop characters and one of them being played by one of the biggest action stars of the 90s and early 2000s Tamil cinema. It’s not every day we get to see a thriller where a killer is revealed even before the intermission. The way Nikhila Vimal’s character gets incorporated into the grand scheme of things and her banter with Prakash without pulling us away from the core idea of the film works well. Despite minor glitches, Por Thozhil is one of the best thrillers we’ve had in Tamil in a while. It’s an impressive whodunnit with an intriguing plot headlined by brilliant performances from Sarath Kumar and Ashok Selvan. In an integral scene, Sarath points out that motive is more important than evidence and Vignesh Raja has made his motive quite evident; he’s here to stay.

Por Thozhil is currently running in theatres

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