An hour into Cobra, I started compiling a list of films where Vikram had played a character who spent the film sporadically ‘murdering’ seemingly random targets - a style of film popularised by Shankar’s 1995 film Indian. The first film that came to mind was Balaji Sakthivel’s Samurai, a pale imitation of the Shankar plot, which besides the soundtrack, was mostly forgettable. Next, there is Shankar’s own, and perhaps the best iteration, 2005 film Anniyan. Finally, the 2009 Susi Ganesan contribution, Kandhasamy, an unintentional so-bad-it’s-good film, where Vikram can be seen as a vigilante serving out his own brand of justice dressed as a chicken. And suddenly, I had a list of films to compare Cobra to. Despite having a bigger budget and wider scope, Cobra may be the worst of the bunch.
The film begins by introducing the main antagonist: a twenty-two year old spoilt billionaire entrepreneur, who hires an assassin to orchestrate hits on political enemies and ensure he retains social influence and power. The aforementioned assassin is none other than Vikram’s genius mathematician Mathiazhagan. The story then goes on an extremely convoluted rollercoaster, with too many twists and turns, leaving the audience slightly baffled. Up until the interval, the story follows a standard hitman film narrative, with a lot of globetrotting and thinking up creative methods to assassinate targets in exotic locations. Much like in Kandhasamy, Vikram appears in a number of different disguises, but not much time or effort goes into exploring these looks and characters.
There is a lot of similarly wasted potential onscreen. There are many opportunities to utilise Vikram, one of the Tamil film industry’s most versatile lead actors, in a plot such as Cobra’s, but Gnanamuthu makes strange choices throughout to avoid this. The Mozart of Madras AR Rahman scores this film, and the songs ‘Adheera’, ‘Thumbi Thullal’ and ‘Uyir Urugudhey’ are more instances of showcasing his seemingly infinite talent. However, the visuals accompanying this music are nothing special, adding to the evergrowing list of films where AR Rahman deftly carries the movie on his back. The romantic subplot featuring Srinidhi Shetty felt incongruous and could have been removed from the over three hour film. There are moments where the dialogue felt clunky, and could have been drafted a few more times.
The film borrows a lot from western film and TV too: there are references to the Marvel and DC cinematic universes, sequences pulled straight out of Steven Moffat’s Sherlock, a moment reminiscent of Breaking Bad, a shot from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as well as more obvious references to the Hitman and Mission Impossible film series. Gnanamuthu does not successfully balance all these ideas, however, and the film felt very messy post-interval. This is most obvious in the climax, where a moment which was supposed to be pulling at one’s heartstrings, instead seemed laughably tonally confused.
Overall, Cobra is an overly-ambitious hodge-podge, with a decent film hidden somewhere within. For a similar plot done to almost perfection, I would strongly recommend Anniyan, where Vikram’s acting prowess is showcased immaculately.
Krishna's rating: 2 stars
Official trailer for the film below.