White Guy Watches Bollywood

A random white guy engages with contemporary Indian cinema... one movie at a time

Rathna Kumar

Tamil Movie Review: Leo is an exhilarating action-crime-mystery, even in spite of a second half that doesn’t fully deliver

Vijay stars in the new Tamil film LEO, here reviewed by White Guy Watches Bollywood.

If you had asked me one year ago to compile a list of 100 American movies made in the last twenty years that would make good candidates to be reimagined by Tamil filmmakers, I doubt I ever would have come up with David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence. And yet, as envisioned by Lokesh Kanagaraj – in the third chapter of his larger “LCU” or “Lokesh Cinematic Universe,” no less – the inspiration feels entirely logical and natural. In fact, if there’s a quibble to be had with Leo, it’s that it feels a little too safe and familiar for a Kollywood smash-hit, not that its imagination is too large. For a movie that actively announces itself as a “tribute” to A History of Violence in its opening titles, Leo never really tries to mimic Cronenberg’s penchant for psychological boundary-pushing.

While the adaptation choice may strike some as peculiar given the film’s more modest ambitions, Leo does successfully take the basic setup of A History of Violence and mold it to fit a traditional Kollywood crime saga fronted by a protagonist with a suspicious past. Like Viggo Mortensen’s Tom Stall before him, Vijay’s Parthiban here becomes an accidental local celebrity in his small town after he successfully defends himself, his daughter, and his staff by gunning down a group of homicidal maniacs robbing his café after-hours. The attention proves entirely unwanted, however, when he becomes a target as a result. And the men who want him dead are not just those linked to the ones he killed. There is another, much larger, much scarier group who spot Parthiban in the news and feel confident they’ve finally found an ex-associate they’ve long been searching for named Leo Das. Given Parthiban’s stunning marksmanship during the self-defense incident, we have a feeling they might be right, despite his vehement denials.

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