Turbo Movie Review: Vysakh’s ultra-generic ‘Turbo’ is basically Mammootty saying he needs to chill after ‘Bramayugam’

The film also stars Raj B Shetty, Anjana Jayaprakash. It is yet another mass movie that thinks a star’s swag is enough.
Turbo Movie Review

Turbo Movie Cast & Crew

Production : Mammootty Kampany
Director : Vysakh
Music Director : Christo Xavier

Towards the end of Turbo, the villain – played by Raj B Shetty – utters these words: “I hate these bloody old  cliches.” He needn’t have waited so long. The bloody old cliches are present from the very beginning. We are in the house of a young woman with a little boy. The doorbell rings, and she sees three men who say they have brought a gift for her husband. Heck, Mammootty’s granddaughter could tell you that this is a lie and these are bad guys, but director Vysakh and writer Midhun Manuel Thomas choose to pretend that this scenario is being presented for the very first time in cinema history. I won’t tell you what happens next, but then, I don’t have to because you will already know what happens next. Turbo is the kind of movie where the audience is always ten steps ahead.

The best thing about the film, unsurprisingly, is Mammootty. He plays Jose, who’s known as Turbo Jose because he’s a troublemaker. He always gets into fights and when he fights, it’s as if he has turbo engines fitted onto him. These are not my words. This is part of the buildup the character gets. But the sweetest touch is that when we first see Jose, it is not in an action scene. We see him with the only person he is afraid of, and this becomes something of a running joke. The character of Jose belongs to an actor in his 20s or 30s, but the 70-plus Mammootty sells it like a dream. There is one good emotional moment, when Jose talks about his past. He narrates the tragic story without fuss and with just enough emotion to make us feel for him, and for a brief second, we get a glimpse of Mammootty the actor. Otherwise, this is not an “acting” role. It is one that relies on his screen presence, and – frankly – how many of our heroes have this kind of screen presence!

But Turbo relies so much on Mammootty’s charisma that it forgets to give him an interesting character to play. Jose is just asked to participate in one slo-mo action scene after another, and because this is an invincible mass-hero template, we know he is never going to get hurt. The fights are as generic as everything else in the movie. There isn’t one inventive move, one thrilling moment. The villain is even more generic. He makes a grand entry in a helicopter, and he makes a grand statement that he will only be addressed by his full name: Vetrivel Shanmuga Sundaram. But otherwise, there’s nothing grand about him. He just keeps barking orders. And his lines are so bad that I really felt sorry for Raj B Shetty. A story about pirates and sea turtles is supposed to have a Tarantino-esque touch, but it falls so flat that the character never recovers after that.

He is a kingmaker, and the story takes us through bank scams and political dealings. But there is zero sense of urgency or danger. Dileesh Pothan seems to be acting in his own little movie called Dileeshinte Prathikaram: he is saying, “If the audience is moving away from my kind of movies, then I will take my revenge by making money from acting jobs in the films they seem to want to watch”. Like in the bigger mass movies these days, there are actors from all over. Apart from Raj B Shetty from the Kannada industry, we have Sunil from Telugu, imitating Marlon Brando as the godfather. It is an offer we can plainly refuse. The joke just doesn’t land. And did I mention samurai warriors who seem to fall from the sky? I could not decide if this was meant to be serious or funny.

Mammootty has been on a hot streak of late, so Turbo is all the more disappointing. But here’s the thing. No one expects serious films all the time, but even in a lighter outing like Turbo, the writing should be taken seriously. This is a screenplay of utter convenience. When a woman (Anjana Jayaprakash) lands up at the house of the man she loves, he doesn’t acknowledge her – because if he did, then the story would have no reason to deposit Jose in Chennai. And this strong woman, who later tries to fight off goons who attack her, is strangely silent when rejected here. The makers clearly expect a big hit, given that they have laid the ground for a sequel. But Turbo is, finally, yet another mass movie that makes us wonder why we can’t showcase star power and also have this showcasing inside a solidly written film.

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Baradwaj Rangan

National Award-winning film critic Baradwaj Rangan, former deputy editor of The Hindu and senior editor of Film Companion, has carved a niche for himself over the years as a powerful voice in cinema, especially the Tamil film industry, with his reviews of films. While he was pursuing his chemical engineering degree, he was fascinated with the writing and analysis of world cinema by American critics. Baradwaj completed his Master’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations through scholarship. His first review was for the Hindi film Dum, published on January 30, 2003, in the Madras Plus supplement of The Economic Times. He then started critiquing Tamil films in 2014 and did a review on the film Subramaniapuram, while also debuting as a writer in the unreleased rom-com Kadhal 2 Kalyanam. Furthermore, Baradwaj has authored two books - Conversations with Mani Ratnam, 2012, and A Journey Through Indian Cinema, 2014. In 2017, he joined Film Companion South and continued to show his prowess in critiquing for the next five years garnering a wide viewership and a fan following of his own before announcing to be a part of Galatta Media in March 2022.