- Release Date: 19/10/2023
- Cast: Joseph Vijay, Trisha Krishnan, Sanjay Dutt, Arjun Sarja
- Director: Lokesh Kanagaraj
Parthiban (Joseph Vijay), an animal rescue specialist, has been living happily with his wife Sathya (Trisha Krishnan) and two children in a peaceful town in Himachal Pradesh. Parthiban runs a café and has enough to lead a comfortable life with his family. Tragically, a gang of murderous thugs enters his town while on their way to a safe haven and somehow ends up in Parthiban’s café one night. As the thugs attempt to make off with cash and eliminate all witnesses in the café, an unknown side of Parthiban’s personality is revealed as he effortlessly takes down all the thugs. The court case that ensues not only turns Parthiban into a local hero but also attracts the attention of a group of dangerous criminals who may have a much deeper connection with Parthiban than anyone could have guessed. What happens next is what ‘Leo’ is all about.
‘Leo’ is an official remake of ‘A History of Violence.’ While the film closely follows the story and the various character motivations of the original, it takes a completely different approach to storytelling and presents the characters and situations in a larger-than-life manner. While watching this film, I hardly ever thought about its predecessor, which also happens to be one of my favorite films of the 2000s.
I must agree that there are some key moments from the original that are recreated here, but they are executed with such flair and style reminiscent of all that is best about Lokesh Kanagaraj’s films That I had very little to complain about. Even though I recognized which portions of the film were inspired by the original, I didn’t find myself comparing the two as the film existed in its own dimension. In essence, Kanagaraj does with ‘Leo’ what should be the approach of all directors when remaking a beloved film. He transforms the story of the original and adapts it to a different context, world, and manner, all while retaining the core elements of the original. The result is so distinct from the original that it offers an entirely new cinematic experience, despite the similarities in story and character motivations.
For those who have seen ‘A History of Violence,’ it’s known that the original film has a runtime of only 1 hour and 36 minutes. ‘Leo’, on the other hand, stretches the story to over 2 hours and 30 minutes, which demanded the director to introduce a plethora of different elements and set pieces to maintain the audience’s attention throughout the hefty runtime.
Thankfully, the film is peppered with elaborate and effective set pieces, including action sequences, chase sequences, animal rescue scenes, and prolonged periods depicting Parthiban’s family dealing with their predicament. At least in the first half, the film is extremely engrossing, and everything about it works. The over-the-top action sequences will make you cheer for the protagonist. The way these action sequences are designed, shot, and executed is impressive and showcases a mastery of craft, even if there may be occasional questions about Vijay’s performance in these moments.
The prolonged segments featuring the family coping with their situation also work wonders. Parthiban is determined to uncover why all these goons are after him. Sathya trusts her husband but still has questions about the man she has known for years. The children are petrified but also astounded by the unfolding events. Joshy (Gautham Vasudev Menon), a forest officer and a close friend of Parthiban, is conducting his own investigation to uncover the truth behind Parthiban’s situation. These elements are seamlessly interwoven into the narrative, with action and intrigue interspersed throughout.
As the film progresses into the second half, the story takes a very different turn with the introduction of the character Antony Das (Sanjay Dutt). The reasons why the goons are chasing after Parthiban and the relationship he shares with Antony Das proved to be quite perplexing. Additionally, the reasons and the way this part of the story was constructed, along with the supporting details provided, felt flimsy and over-the-top to be taken seriously. There was insufficient time devoted to some of the key characters in this portion who needed to make an impact to ensure the audience’s interest and participation in the rest of the story. This aspect was handled with little consequence, almost glossed over to reach the elaborate and crowd-pleasing climax of the film.
What Kanagaraj seemed to overlook is that without the audience’s emotional connection to the key characters, the kind of payoff expected from the climax could never be assured, and it, indeed, was not achieved. It’s also a fact that Parthiban’s character and his alleged past entangled with the character of Leo raised significant questions about the character, prompting me to question whether I should be rooting for the character throughout the remainder of the film.
One thing, however, that cannot be denied in any way in the film is Vijay’s scintillating performance as both Parthiban and Leo. Whether these two characters are the same person or not is a question that you’ll have to see the film to answer, but Vijay’s portrayal of both characters is outstanding. He is nearly present in every scene of the film, and his performance and presence are captivating. Vijay ensures that you are constantly engaged and intrigued by his characters, and by bringing his trademark charm and interpretation to these two different roles, he not only holds onto the audience’s attention but also ensures that his characters are a source of surprise because of the many twists and turns in the narrative, many of which reveal the strikingly different aspects of what Parthiban’s character is capable of doing. There are also emotionally disarming moments where we witness the character of Parthiban breaking down, and Vijay excels in these scenes. One of these moments occurs right after a major action sequence, a moment when you least expect it.
Vijay shares a wonderful chemistry with the character of Sathya, played by Trisha Krishnan. This chemistry was essential for the success of some key moments in the film, and it’s skillfully ensured by these two veteran actors. Vijay also engages in some interesting moments with Sanjay Dutt, which may not be as exceptional as one might have expected but still serve their purpose. I particularly enjoyed their first encounter in Parthiban’s café. It’s worth noting that the lack of character development for many of the supporting characters comes back to affect the effectiveness of several emotionally charged and dramatic moments and exchanges in the film.
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There were some significant subversions of expectations in the film that didn’t necessarily work for me. One of these involved a character that was prominently featured in the trailer and received a lot of emphasis but was unceremoniously killed off in the film. While such a twist can sometimes be effective, it didn’t quite work for me in this case. The climax, too, turned out to be somewhat disappointing, as I was expecting something more substantial, especially in terms of the resolution of the characters of Parthiban and Leo. The question of whether the two are the same or not was teased throughout the 2 hours and 40 minutes of the film, only to be answered in an uninteresting and uninspiring manner. I had hoped for a more brilliant and distinctive outcome from this setup, which would have set it apart from the original, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. This was one of the most significant letdowns for me in the film.
Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)
The views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not reflect EastMojo’s position.
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