Michael Movie Review: A hyper-stylised but muddled and chaotic action saga
In the post-KGF world, guns and bullets have become so commonplace that there is very little novelty in such elaborate sequences anymore, and Michael suffers from the been-there-seen-that syndrome
At one point, Gautham Vasudev Menon, playing the suave gangster Gurunath in Michael is reading the Venus in Furs. It is a book about a man who has a fascination with a woman who is cruel to him. He has this book with him while sending his protege Michael (Sundeep Kishan) on an assassination mission that involves a woman, Theera (Divyansha Kaushik). Gurunath talks about the black widow spider and the insect's proclivity for murdering its sexual partners. It is a precursor to what is going to happen in Michael's life. His steadfast life, which is filled with murder, mayhem, and madness, will soon be torpedoed by a melancholic melody, courtesy of a woman. Just like in the book, Michael's unending love for Theera takes him back to her even if he has to face insurmountable odds. Such a connection between a book and the film's narrative is also seen when Gurunath reads The Old Man and the Sea, The Godfather, and Macbeth. While it is fascinating to make these connections, it isn't like these are passing references that are put out there to test our literary knowledge. We also have director Ranjit Jeyakodi giving us an elaborate exposition. While this game of 'connect the dots,' is undoubtedly fun, the reason why we actually play this game while watching a bloody saga of revenge and retribution is that the proceedings are unbelievably monotonous and droll.
Director: Ranjit Jeyakodi
Cast: Sundeep Kishan, Divyansha Kaushik, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Vijay Sethupathi
Michael begins with a prominent supporting character from the KGF universe narrating the story of a boy who came in as a nobody to Mumbai and became a much-feared don of the city. One might think this is straight out of Nayagan or even KGF, and they will not be wrong. After a rather long-ish buildup for the titular character, we see how the daring boy becomes the fearless man in Gurunath's arsenal. These scenes play out rather wonderfully setting the pace for Michael, which, by now, has reminded us of a bunch of films like Arun Matheswaran's Rocky that presented violence in a highly stylised format. However, Ranjit and Co don't really go all out on the visceral and gratuitous violence and keep it to a palatable minimum. We have one never-say-die assassin searching for a girl, who is held captive by the antagonists. In between all this, we have the age-old trope of a son wanting to become the next underworld don even as the father doesn't always favour him. We have seen this equation play out in films like Polladhavan, Bheeshma Parvam, and even... KGF. Oh also, there is a John Wick-inspired buildup for Sundeep, which doesn't really land well because, despite the never-ending elevation scenes, they just aren't enough to buy the actor as this dreaded Michael.
Honestly, it isn't that Sundeep isn't giving it his all. He is the heart, soul, and bones of the film, which also has Gautham, Vijay Sethupathi, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, and Divyansha giving it their all. However, for an ambitious film like Michael, it isn't enough that the actors undergo physical transformations, and spout punch dialogues every second minute. It is the writing that has to back the ambition and the pizzazz. That is where Michael falters quite a bit and oscillates between being a colossal disappointment and a mildly engaging style statement. There is an overwhelming sense of deja vu, and even the climactic twist isn't that much of a reveal in the first place. The way the narrative unfolds to this point is something Ranjit uses liberally throughout the film. The random timeline jumps within a single sequence manage to be both non-cohesive and engaging, but the makers play this card one time too many, and the monotony in the story finds its way into the screenplay too. The biggest saving grace of Michael is definitely the background score of Sam CS, and the cinematography of Kiran Kaushik, which is just terrific and elevates the mood of the film whenever it goes down the route of predictability.
In the post-KGF world, guns and bullets have become so commonplace that there is very little novelty in such elaborate sequences anymore, and Michael suffers from the been-there-seen-that syndrome. Also, it is time we do away with the trope of a gun-toting hero throwing his guns away to take on two burly henchmen instead of just shooting them dead and moving on. Even the never-ending bloody hand-to-hand combat scenes don't really engage after a point because the emotion behind it all isn't established strongly enough. Yes, we have Theera say things like "Don't fall for me, I will break your heart" and... she goes on to do just that. She says such strong statements and is established as a character with agency, and it is something we expect out of a Ranjit Jeyakodi film. While he impresses on that front by sketching a rather intriguing woman at the centre of things, mounting Micheal as a testosterone-driven action thriller doesn't give the maker the scope that he had in the heavily underrated Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum to explore the romance between the lead pair. So, when Gurunath, who is perplexed by Michael's actions, looks at him, and says, "Oru ponnukaagava idhellaam panne nu nenacha aacharyama illa... asingama irukku..." I couldn't help but nod my head in acceptance because the life of Gurunath is much more fascinating than whatever it is that Michael is brooding about. Also yeah, Vijay Sethupathi and Varalaxmi Sarathkumar play a rather fun couple who suddenly join this cycle of violence. In a film that is named after the lead, if the more interesting takeaways are the camaraderie shared between two characters playing cameos, and the list of books read by a satin-shirts-and-cool-shades sporting primary antagonist, then one thing is clear... all style and a semblance of substance make Michael a dull film.