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Michael - Style over substance

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The trailer for 'Michael' seemed promising: a colourful yet dark Nicolas Winding Refn style action thriller, an alluring femme fatale and a Vijay Sethupathi cameo. Almost everything would have to go wrong for Ranjit Jeyakodi’s ‘Michael’ to fail. Somehow, the film is not only bad, but wholly unbearable. 

The film follows Sundeep Kishan’s titular character Michael, a stern young brute whose aim is to kill his father. He joins Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Gurunath, a don who runs Bombay. Michael is sent out on an assignment to assassinate one of the men responsible for a failed hit attempt on Gurunath. He is told to track the traitor through his daughter, Theera - played by Divyansha Kaushik. 

The positives for the film are scarce. One major positive is the aesthetic created by the sometimes decent cinematography. Two shots were particularly outstanding: one during a song sequence which seemed to have been lifted from Gaspar Noe’s ‘Climax’, and another involving a mother and her son which felt strangely loaded with great thematic weight and composed immaculately. Another positive is a brief few minutes in which Vijay Sethupathi and Varalaxmi Sarathkumar enter the film in the second half and breathe a short-lived breath of fresh air into the otherwise stale film. However, even this momentary semblance of personality quickly decays. 

Other than these two points, the film is an unmitigated mess. The film’s tone is set in the opening scene, where a grateful mother announces a ten-year old Michael’s greatness out loud, like a scene out of 'KGF'. The script seems to be an unpolished first draft, filled to the brim with eye-rolling, terrible one-liners and empty protagonist hype-building. I cannot be the only one tired of the neverending animal and jungle analogies these testosterone-fuelled capers seem to be obsessed with. 'Michael' touts itself as simultaneously shot in both Telugu and Tamil, however it has alternately shot scenes in each language instead of completely retaking shots. Therefore, half the film’s dubbing is out of sync. Gautham Menon is horribly miscast, only serving to remind the audience the similarities between ‘Michael’ and Menon’s own, much better features ‘Enai Noki Paayum Thota’ and last year’s ‘Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu’. He does not possess the gravitas to do the role of Gurunath any justice. Every character is sorely underwritten - the desired effect is to create an air of mystery behind each, but it is blatant how little care has gone into them. There are some tenuous links to themes of God and some strange Oedipal undertones which are barely explored. The dance choreography team requires a special mention for some of the worst dance steps put to film. The editing in the ‘Nee Podhum Enakku’ song is horrendous, with quick zooms in and out which are headache-inducing. 

Another low point was Sam CS’s music. The film attempts to be classy (at least in visual execution), however Sam CS’s output is nowhere near what the film requires. The background score is loud and does not match the filmic atmosphere. The songs are all bland, uninteresting and, once again, do not fit the film at all. 

‘Michael’ joins the long line of gangster films released in recent times, and is the worst of them. It is utterly charmless. The style of the film outweighs the substance by a large margin. Despite the director’s incessant references to Hemingway novels, Bruce Lee films and Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, the film is outclassed by them all. When almost all departments of a film fail miserably, there is only one person to blame - the director. ‘Michael’ crumbles under its own lofty ambitions, a shell of a film which dissipates upon any scrutiny. 

Krishna's rating: 1 star


Official trailer for the film below. 

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