Highway Movie Review: A flat, downright boring ride
KV Guhan's sophomore directorial is thrilling as watching a live screensaver on your computer
Allow me to drop a random architectural trivia. Australia's 141-kilometre-long Eyre Highway is one of the longest roads in the world. One of the perils of driving on this road is the possibility of accidents by driver fatigue. There are no twists, no turns, leaving drivers restless as they ride on and on without respite. In other words, you keep driving forward but there is barely a kick in the journey. Travel bloggers describe travelling on the road as “plain and boring”. That could double up as the review of this Highway as well. The bigger crime here is that there is a serial killer on the loose, hunting for his prey, but the film is pretty much like a drive on Eyre Highway.
In Highway, Abhishek Banerjee plays a serial killer who tortures random young women to death. He tapes their eyelids open, forcing them to witness the brutality they are subjected to. As a night sequence played out, looking at the reflection of my face on the laptop screen, I empathised with the victim’s misery in their last moments. Abhishek, whose Hathoda Thyagi from Pataal Lok startles you, is reduced to a laughing stock in the film. He is the subject of this year’s most hilarious moment on screen, albeit unintentionally. Saiyami Kher (pulling off a reiteration of her character from last year’s Wild Dog) plays a cop on the trail to nab the killer; her urgency is barely registered, and at one point, the writing is so basic that you wonder how she landed in the position. Anand Deverakonda plays a photographer on his way from Vishakapatnam to Bengaluru to cover a wedding and Sathya plays his funny friend, who has a funny ringtone and talks funny because he is supposed to be funny; but he is not funny. What's funnier is the sad life of Tulasi (Manasa Radhakrishna), who is the personification of every melodramatic cliche. Anand and Sathya's characters run into Tulasi in a scene that's so predictable that you see it coming when Anand starts from Vishakapatnam. After a series of boring and silly events, the serial killer enters into the mix, and the film gets louder; not interesting.
The problem with Highway is that it is just not thrilling. Perhaps it is Abhishek Banerjee’s horribly dubbed voice—the quintessential villain voice you hear in Telugu films—or Tulasi’s overly sentimental track that is purposefully written to wring out a feeling of sympathy. The sad life of Tulasi, in fact, works against the film. There is hardly anything palpable in the film; the danger when the killer prowls on the highway, the relief when a character escapes from his clutch, the suffering of the innocent victims, the sadness of the characters, or even the motivation of the killer—which is verbally spelt out in a primitive scene. None of them leave an impact. Even the sense of geography, the eponymous highway, is barely felt.
Speaking of films about maniacs and desolated geographies, Krishna Vamsi’s Danger, Ram Gopal Varma’s Road, and even the recently released Tamil film, D Block, are way more successful in instilling a threat—by leveraging their respective settings—although they are not competent products of storytelling in their entirety. However, Highway has nothing redemptive about it. Part of it can be attributed to uninspiring writing, which barely builds the characters and the rest of it is the insignificant craft. While it is not technically blemished, the craft doesn’t uplift it either.
Highway is stale, boring, and unintentionally funny. Calling it a middling affair would be an act of over-selling the film. It is not even bad enough to have fun with and that, according to me, is the biggest crime a bad film can commit.