'Kannur Squad': A gripping police drama with brilliant performances
  • Release Date: 28/09/2023
  • Platform: Disney Plus Hotstar
  • Cast: Mammootty, Kishore Kumar G., Rony David, Azeez Nedumangad, Sunny Wayne, Shabareesh Varma, Arjun Radhakrishnan
  • Director: Roby Varghese Raj

Kannur Squad‘ is the latest police procedural from Malayalam Cinema, and it immediately reminded me of one of Tamil cinema’s greatest police procedurals and action films, ‘Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru’. As was the case with ‘Theeran’, ‘Kannur Squad’ is inspired by true events but is highly fictionalized to suit the intriguing and entertaining nature of the film.

When I look at police procedurals, there are basically two types. One – the films that are rooted in realism and are almost documentary-esque in their approach to storytelling. The second kind is the ones where in addition to the realistic police investigations and other accepts of a police procedural, the emphasis is on the larger-than-life actor who plays the protagonist (who also happens to be a cop). He does everything that he is probably famous for, and there are a lot of action setpieces involving larger-than-life action and other elements that give masala films their identity. In these films, the realism often goes for a toss and the focus is on the entertainment quotient more than anything else.

A new breed of police procedural:

Interestingly, films like ‘Theeran’ and ‘Kannur Squad’ are quickly developing and cementing the place for a third kind of police procedurals. These films are not only inspired by and rooted in true and horrifying stories, giving them a fairly realistic treatment throughout, but also have moments of unbridled action, romance, and hyperviolence that cater to the fan base of the larger-than-life heroes like Mammootty and Karthi. These stars have to cater to their fans who love them for a certain type of cinema, and while they are okay with their stars trying different things, they also want to have at least a scene or two featuring their stars doing what they are loved for.

Intriguing and entertaining from start to finish:

‘Kannur Squad’ grabs your attention from the get-go. The film begins with the Kannur Squad, led by George Martin (Mammootty), apprehending a group of criminals after an elaborate opening chase sequence that will remind you of the detailed and nuanced filmmaking of most Malayalam film directors. The raid to apprehend the criminals leads the squad to the discovery of an unconnected dead body that looks like a result of a suicide. However, when the squad carries out their investigation, they find out that the man was, in fact, murdered by his wife with whom he shared a troubled relationship. This is our introduction to the Kannur Squad, and this is also the point where the opening credits roll, almost half an hour into the film. This just goes on to show the audacity of the director and his faith in his story, characters, and their performances, as it is from this moment that the actual story of the film begins.

Mammootty and his squad of three dedicated police officers are entrusted to solve the case of the death of a political party member and the subsequent torture of his family members. The death looks like a dacoity gone wrong on the surface but has all the vibes of being a murder committed by the members of the opposite political party. The squad has only 10 days to solve the crime, as the pressure from the political party of which the deceased was a member is ever-increasing, and even the Chief Minister has shown interest in the investigation.

The Kannur Squad is plagued by the fact that one of its key members has been caught red-handed accepting bribes. This weighs not only on the team members and their faith in each other but also on the case, as many people question the sanity of having such a corrupt official as part of such a crucial investigation. However, George is confident in his decision to have this particular member in his team and strongly believes that his presence will add to the investigation and be an advantage to the team. His decision is put to the test several times in the film when the character’s past with corruption becomes an issue for the investigation as well as a matter of trust and faith between the team members.

Perfect balance between realism and heroism:

At least 70% of the film unfolds in the most realistic fashion possible. The squad is shown sifting through enormous datasets to arrive at some of the suspects. The rest of the suspects are also unearthed most believably. The investigation and the interrogation of the suspects are kept believable and rooted in realism where the nuanced performance of the actors plays a vital role in ensuring intrigue and realism.

Having said that, just because the proceedings are realistic doesn’t mean that they cannot be presented in innovative and heroic styles. The director approaches different portions of the film in unique ways, giving it a touch of brilliance. The face reveal of Mammootty, the revelation of one of the killers presented as a turn of a page of a document, and the highly stylized presentation of the Kannur Squad wherever they are shown going on a mission, all form part of a larger whole that ensures that the proceedings and the screenplay never get boring or generic.

The performances in the film are consistently great:

I was bowled over by Mammootty’s scintillating performance as George Martin. I have to admit that I am more of a Mohanlal fan, but the character of George was tailor-made for him, and he puts his best foot forward throughout the film. What I loved about his portrayal was the amount of vulnerability that he was able to bring to the character, rendering many of the scenes memorable. There is a scene at the end of the film where all hope is lost, and Mammootty literally begs two captured criminals to show him the way to the prime accused. How this scene progresses and ultimately culminates is so different from what one could have expected from it practically blew me away. One has to agree that this scene wouldn’t have been the same had it not been for the performance of Mammootty in it.

The rest of the ensemble cast of the film is equally good. Rony David as the cop caught taking a bribe and who has to spend the rest of the film dealing with the indifference of his own team members until the very end when he reveals the true reasons behind him taking the bribe is great. I loved how his performance successfully portrayed how earnestly his character was trying to get back to the same level of comfort and peace with his team members but was unable to make a dent in their indifference towards him. Arjun Radhakrishnan as the primary antagonist was great. He was perfectly hateable in a character that was interestingly written. He could have been better served with a longer role but still left a lasting impression with his menacing performance.

Copious amounts of action in second half:

The action and violence in the second half of the film are extremely well-choreographed and executed. The fact that the action is kept at a level where Mammootty is at the thick of the action, but the moves are designed in such a way that it isn’t a problem for him to pull it all off, was a clever move. The pulsating background score, though not as great or memorable as some of the other films of the genre, still works and adds a lot to the action and violence. The action in the film is always a result of heightened emotions and a rather long buildup, which was one aspect that served the film all too well.

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Final words:

‘Kannur Squad’ is one of those films that can easily be watched and enjoyed at least twice since there is so much in it to absorb. The film looks gorgeous, has great performances, the drama is for real and has many aspects to it, and the mystery of the story works for the entirety. It is one thrilling cat-and-mouse game that is bound to keep you hooked from start to finish. Even the two not-so-important cases in the film will hold your attention when they are unfolding. What more could you ask for from a film of this nature? My only complaint from ‘Theeran’ was the fact that the romance between Karthi and Rakul Preet Singh was unnecessarily prolonged for almost 30 minutes, rendering some of the initial portions of the film a little boring. There are no female love interests in this film, and that makes it so much better simply because that time that could have been spent on romance or a song-and-dance routine is used to squeeze in two more investigations that not only show the squad in action but also give us an idea about how they work. ‘Kannur Squad’ is streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar and is definitely a must-watch.

Rating: 4/5 (4 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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