‘Run Baby Run’ movie review: RJ Balaji dons a new avatar in this could-have-been-better suspense thriller

Jiyen Krishnakumar’s film squanders a solid setup to fall flat in the second half

February 03, 2023 04:33 pm | Updated 05:33 pm IST

RJ Balaji in ‘Run Baby Run’

RJ Balaji in ‘Run Baby Run’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

An ordinary man trapped in an extraordinary situation. Jiyen Krishnakumar’s Run Baby Run, starring RJ Balaji, expands this one-line so effectively in its first half.

When Sathya (played by Balaji), an upper-middle-class bank employee, returns to his car after purchasing a gift for his fiancée, he finds a woman hiding under the back seat. That instance, that day, that woman upend his life forever. He realises, a while after, that the woman is in trouble but is hesitant to help.

He isn’t a hero; he is just another man wanting to lead a normal life. But he is also a man with a conscience. When this mysterious woman tells him she might be killed if he doesn’t shelter her, he reluctantly agrees to help. He is still terribly nervous but also doesn’t want any blood on his hands. All of this makes Sathya an immediately relatable protagonist.

Jiyen, who has written and directed the film, successfully manages to lure us towards the edge of our seats. He creates a sombre mood with the help of S Yuva’s low-key, dark cinematography and Sam CS’s ominous score. The writing is more visual than verbal. Some of the images — like the finger of a dead woman peeking out of a travel bag — evoke an eerie vibe. The writing is clean, too. Jiyen doesn’t get tempted to give Balaji a one-liner, which would have killed the mood of the film.

Run Baby Run
Direction: Jiyen Krishnakumar
Cast: RJ Balaji, Aishwarya Rajesh, Radhika Sarathkumar, Isha Talwar, and more
Runtime: 2 hr 11 min

Balaji himself has done something he hasn’t before: play a fully serious role. He attempted a restrained performance in his previous film, Veetla Vishesham, as well. But that was a comedy-drama with a powerful supporting cast in Sathyaraj, Urvashi, Aparna Balamurali, and KPAC Lalitha. This film almost solely rests on Balaji’s shoulders (despite Aishwarya Rajesh’s cameo). Kudos to him for challenging himself to do something different and forsaking his forte. But his performance needs more sandpapering. Sometimes he appears too stone-faced and there are occasions where he overacts.

The writing and the direction, however, mask the limitations in his performance in the first half. And, we get a great setup, wherein the protagonist, who has been involuntarily involved in the death of two people, receives a threat from a faceless, seemingly powerful antagonist.

But the film begins to plummet in the second half. Things get more verbal and hurried but less exciting. The so-far relatable protagonist becomes a hero, who fights people (the action sequence, albeit realistic, seems unnecessary) and battles for a bigger cause. He is not on a run to save himself anymore; he is running to catch the bad guys. It is fine if the thus-far protagonist turns into a hero but the real issue is that this transformation arc is unconvincing. The investigation scenes are devoid of suspense. And the big reveal, in the end, fizzles out like a half-damp firecracker.

If only the writing was consistent in the second half, if only Aishwarya Rajesh’s character was fleshed out a little more, and if only there was a well-established antagonist, we would have gotten a much better film than we did. In the end, we are left with these ‘if onlys’.

‘Run Baby Run’ is running in theatres

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