Turbo (Sajin's Review) Movie Review: A passable actioner with a few highs and much familiarity

Turbo's climactic development and a few preceding stretches make up its most exciting moments.
Turbo (Sajin's Review) Movie Review

Turbo (Sajin's Review) Movie Cast & Crew

Production : Mammootty Kampany
Director : Vysakh

Turbo comes from the imagination of Midhun Manuel Thomas, who once announced he would direct a sequel to Kottayam Kunjachan, a favourite of many 90s kids growing up. I can see why he didn't go ahead with it. Turbo Jose, played by Mammootty, is not too different from Kunjachan. Of course, their backgrounds and names differ, but not their attitudes: their sense of (self-deprecating) humour and propensity for getting into fights. Kunjachan was an orphan raised by a priest; Jose, on the other hand, has a mother (Bindu Panicker) who keeps him in check. Jose is a man that, we learn, no matter how much you try to keep him away from a fight, he'll somehow manage to get involved in any destined for his participation. 


This quality gets established in the film's early moments through a generic slow-motion-obsessed fight sequence typical of a Vysakh mass entertainer. But Turbo is two films rolled in one. The second is a thriller that carries all the trademarks of a Midhun Manuel Thomas script, with ample English lines and technical jargon thrown in. Thankfully, Midhun doesn't let the writer in him dominate the film as much as he did in Garudan and Ozler. The plus is we get a film that doesn't take itself too seriously. The negative? The film isn't too exciting and fresh. 


I assume the idea of Turbo came about when Midhun decided to modify his Kottayam Kunjachan sequel idea to accommodate additional elements for a wider reach. Because, as a character, Kunjachan is less likely to appeal to a non-Malayali audience. Turbo doesn't have that problem. It's like one of those Westerns where a man goes to a strange town, meddles with everything going on there and leaves it in a completely different shape than before. This Western hero could even change the people in charge through his actions. Turbo is essentially the same idea repurposed for a South Indian audience. 

The Idukki-based Jose has an excuse for ending up in Chennai. The events that trigger his journey recall Kottayam Kunjachan to a certain extent. Just like how Kunjachan was involved in the life of a woman in that film, Jose gets into a similarly chaos-inducing scenario involving a woman named Indulekha (Anjana Jayaprakash of Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum), a bank manager who later becomes a pawn in a large-scale nefarious operation orchestrated by the film's main baddie Vetrivel (Raj B Shetty). 


So that's one name to get the attention of Kannada audiences. On the way, we meet another familiar pan-Indian face, a don Auto Billa (Sunil), who seems to have watched The Godfather too many times to affect Brando's mannerisms but ends up parodying him-- in a good way, of course. Sunil is one of the contributors to the film's comic relief department whenever things get too serious. Without spoiling anything, there's another heavy pan-Indian presence, too, who could show up in a potential sequel, hinted at by the film's closing moments. That would be indeed interesting -- to see an actor of that calibre going up against Mammootty.


Yes, interesting. This final plot development and its few preceding stretches make up Turbo's most exciting moments. But the generated excitement, for me at least, is of the same degree as when watching a WWE kind. It's all very surface-level. You get a kick out of seeing Mammootty unleashing pure mayhem on Vetrivel's army, some dressed in -- wait for it -- samurai get-ups while wishing for some ingenuity. Is this the first action movie of Mammootty where he gets the most number of fight sequences? I believe so. Again, Vysakh resorts to his usual tendency for fastening and slowing the action sequences to the point of getting very tiresome and repetitive. The same goes for the car chases. Bland.


If there's one action sequence that demonstrates a modicum of novelty -- by recent mass Malayalam cinema standards -- is a police station fight and one inside a fish packaging plant. The former, in particular, impresses because Vysakh dials down the slo-mo and goes for faster cuts and moves (credit to editor Shameer Muhammed) that lend a sense of hot-iron intensity not seen in the other sequences. And Mammootty seems to have had more fun doing these than his recent action sequences. The bad guys seem to be coming off a conveyor belt, and Jose quips, "Is there no end to this?" As a neon signboard spelt out in one of his earlier intro sequences, it's a 'Mega Show', so why not go all out?


In one of Turbo's funniest moments, Bindu Panicker expresses her fondness for Robert Jowney Jr's Tony Stark/Iron Man. I won't spoil the joke, but these little doses of humour for which Midhun's script finds space -- to diffuse the tension during moments of extreme peril -- is one of its few strong qualities. I would've liked to see this kind of generosity extended to the other women in Turbo, but unfortunately, they get stock characters with no memorable personalities. Oddly enough, it allows some secondary male characters, like Vetrivel's stylish henchman (Kabir Duhan Singh) or a senior cop (Basil Poulose), opportunities to make a solid impression, either through macho posturing or humour. I wasn't bowled over by Raj B Shetty's character, even though I liked seeing him in a big Malayalam movie facing off against Mammootty. Perhaps I got too spoilt by his weightier performances in films like Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana or Ondu Motteya Kathe. 


That said, I would like to see the next chapter and its world-building possibilities, especially now that we know the owner of that final voice-over. Hopefully, it will be a much superior experience.

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