Cobra Movie Review: Vikram is solid, but the plot is all over the place
In an attempt to give us a grand film that is a marriage of a clever thriller and a poignant emotional drama, Ajay Gnanamuthu falters quite a bit to give us a half-decent but a template Vikram film
Hardly 15 minutes into the three-hour, three-minute, and three-second Cobra, the film has taken us to 13-odd locations. We see a couple of high-profile assassinations take place. We move across Odisha, Scotland, France, London, Kolkata, and within seven minutes of his appearance on screen, Vikram, who plays Madhi, a mathematical genius moonlighting as an assassin-for-hire, is shown in at least six different get-ups. It is clear director Ajay Gnanamuthu, much like the protagonist of his film, Cobra, loves numbers and puzzles. But in his attempt to give us a grand film that is a marriage of a clever thriller and a poignant emotional drama, Ajay only musters a half-decent film that slithers to a tame end.
Director: Ajay Gnanamuthu
Cast: Vikram, Srinidhi Shetty, Roshan Mathew, Anandraj
Cobra wants to be a lot of things but lacks the writing to pull it all off. After an initial buildup about Madhi’s mathematical prowess in executing outlandish assassinations halfway across the world from his nondescript house in Chennai, we barely see him exercise such brilliance again. Yes, he wriggles out of some tight corners, but what about the mathematical part of it? If that’s not really needed, how is he any different from our Ethan Hunts and Agent Vikrams who ace action without caring about Pythagoras or Euclid. It is a shame that Ajay doesn’t really flesh out this ‘math genius’ aspect of his protagonist. This could have been forgiven had the other aspects of Cobra really came together to give us a gripping film. The central plot of a mathematical genius/assassin meeting his match with a world-is-mine villain, an uber-smart Interpol officer, and one surprise villain does have the makings of a fun exercise… But the stars don’t quite align here.
Let’s take the case of the caricaturish villain, Rajiv Rishi, who is played in the most outlandish way by Roshan Mathew. It is a role that seems like a cross between Siddharth Abhimanyu and Harley Quinn. He exudes manic energy that is hard to watch because the role is all fluff and no substance. Irfan Pathan plays an Interpol officer, Aslan, and is not bad at all, and it is nice to see someone try so hard with the Tamil dialogues. Points to Ajay Gnanamuthu for giving Aslan enough high moments to save him from becoming, say, someone like Aryan from Vivegam.
Similarly, Ajay neatly weaves in the women — Srinidhi Shetty, Meenakshi Govindarajan, and Mirnalini Ravi — into the story. However, though the scenes show potential, the dialogues are trite and the performances, contrived. These dips in the narrative take away from the highs of the assassination portions. The surprise package is definitely the roles played by Anandaraj, Mohammad Ali Baig, Miya George, and the actor who plays the childhood version of Vikram. These portions, powered by a terrific Vikram, are a hoot. It is such a relief from the other sequences that oscillate between vapid and exciting and nothing in between.
Despite what happens to a host of characters or plot points in the film, there is no doubt that Cobra is only about one man… Vikram, and his fascination for characters that allow him to satiate his love for prosthetics. It is a Vikram show through and through, and it is understandable why the actor felt so strongly about this film. Ajay peppers this film with a host of bright, bold, and interesting ideas, even if they don’t always hit the bull’s eye with their execution. AR Rahman’s background score (barring that grating pathos BGM) and solid songs aid the narrative, which jumps across timelines at the same pace that it jumps across continents.
This non-linear approach and throwing bits and pieces of information hoping that the latter half will resolve all these issues is a tough sell. The plot gets convoluted, and the glimmers of brilliance get offset by the forced romance and exposition. With a premise like this, and a bunch of convenient plot twists that remind us of a few films, including a blockbuster Hindi film from the recent past, Cobra ticks almost all the boxes we have recently come to expect from a Vikram-starrer, including the disappointment of the actor being the brightest star in a rather middling film.