A History of Violence.
A violent past. A sabbatical, either forced or by choice. A trigger. And then, the return. This template in Indian cinema is now as old as the industry itself.
To his credit, Lokesh Kanagaraj admits at the outset that his Vijay-starrer Leo is ‘inspired’ by A History of Violence – a graphic novel in the 1990s, which was adapted into a Hollywood thriller by David Cronenberg in 2005. Talk of inspiring generations! Throw in a family in the midst, and you think you have the perfect recipe—for a disaster or a masterpiece.
Kanagaraj had whipped up blockbusters with a similar recipe in 2019 – Karthi-starrer Kaithi – and in 2022 – Kamal Haasan-starrer Vikram. Leo is the third instalment in the now-famous Lokesh Cinematic Universe (LCU). The canvas has been expanding with each film, with Leo setting the stage for, probably, the grand finale.
But, how do you make it large? By bringing in more big names? By weaving in more drama? By multiplying violence and bloodshed? Kanagaraj does these all in Leo, but still falls short of engaging the audience the way he did in Kaithi or Vikram. A story of substance is the major ingredient missing in his recipe this time around.
With names as big as Sanjay Dutt, Arjun, Trisha, along with none other than ‘Thalapathy Vijay’, Leo should have been an edge-of-the-seat thriller. Instead, what we get is a string of violent and bloody albeit well-choreographed fight scenes, interspersed with doses of lukewarm family drama. The mantra nowadays seems to be more the blood and gore, more the frenzy and mass appeal.
There are others like Anurag Kashyap, Babu Antony and Madonna Sebastian in blink-and-you-miss roles. Most of the character building seems forced. As does the LCU link.
Vijay, though, shines. As café owner Parthiban and Leo Das. It is nothing that he hasn’t done earlier, but his intensity and energy need to be applauded. In the midst of chopping and bashing the goons, there are instances, where Vijay lets his emotions do the talking. The beginning of the second half is almost a tribute to the vintage Vijay, which will thrill his die-hard fans. Anirudh Ravichander’s beats take care of that.
Arjun, as Harold Das, stands out in the limited screen time he gets. His swag and punches are a delight to watch. This when he is rubbing shoulders with the King of Swag, Dutt. But the Bollywood star is mostly wasted in the one-man show. Trisha, on the other hand, gets a meatier role, but is resigned to playing the perennial wife in distress, waiting for her husband to save her.
Leo is probably the weakest film in the LCU. Despite the highly stylised action sequences, the clichés in the script prove to be its biggest stumbling blocks. Nothing good ever comes of violence, it is said. Touché.
Director: Lokesh Kanagaraj
Cast: Vijay, Trisha, Sanjay Dutt, Arjun, Gautham Vasudev Menon