Jailer Movie Review: Nelson's 'Jailer' is yet another watered-down attempt at fan service, but Rajinikanth is solid and Vinayakan is superb

Nelson Dilipkumar
I think Nelson wanted to do a very bloody and very violent movie, but was forced to make it warm and cuddly because… "family audiences".
Jailer Movie Review

Jailer Movie Cast & Crew

Production : Sun pictures
Director : Nelson Dilipkumar
Music Director : Anirudh

There's a galaxy of major and minor stars in Nelson's Jailer: Mohanlal, Shiva Rajkumar, Ramya Krishnan, Vasanth Ravi, Tamannaah, Marimuthu, Yogi Babu, VTV Ganesh, Jaffer Sadiq, Redin Kingsley… None of them makes an impression. If your response to this observation is to throw back your head and laugh… If you say, "This is a Rajinkanth movie, so who cares about anyone else"… If it's enough that we get callbacks to old films and old lines and old habits like smoking on screen… If all you seek is nostalgia, like Rajinikanth reuniting with his Uttar Dakshin costar Jackie Shroff… If all you want is a series of shots of Superstar looking stylish and cool, including one super-stylish and super-cool shot where we glimpse his booted feet through a half open door… Then read or listen no further. You don't need this review.

For the rest of us who like Rajinikanth but also want him in a movie worthy of his star stature and screen presence… For those of us who have been waiting since Karthik Subbaraj's Petta for Superstar to be presented to us by a director with a unique voice…  For those of us who want a screenplay that's unpredictable, and not just a weakly written twist towards the end… For those of us who yearn for the dark-humoured Nelson of Kolamavu Kokila and Doctor and not the wishy-washy fan-service provider of Beast… For those of us who wonder why a Tihar Jail flashback that's meant to show the hero as menacing does the exact opposite… For those of us who demand proper punch lines and not silly references to dinosaurs… For those of us who are getting tired of three-hour films that don't bother to do anything exciting or new… For those of us who care about basic things like filmmaking rhythm and set pieces and a coherent screenplay and coherent characters… Well, Jailer is another missed opportunity.

In both Kolamavu Kokila and Doctor, Nelson established himself as a specialist in dark, deadpan humour. But that USP took a big backseat in Beast, which was more about action and other things, and it's even less visible in Jailer. The "jokes" are weak and watered down. Yogi Babu and VTV Ganesh get maybe one laugh each, but the entire spoof of southern  heroes is a big waste of time. The bit about the villain's henchmen dancing to songs shot on heroines is so lame. And none of this is "dark" comedy, exactly – more like desperate comedy. This is what I think happened. Nelson dreamed up a damn good story about a retired jailer whose peace-loving facade hides a tough Baasha-like past. In other words, he dreamed up a very bloody and very violent movie, but was forced to make it warm and cuddly because… "family audiences".

Rajinikanth is in fine form, doing what he does best against the backdrop of Anirudh's background score. The interval point is not pushed enough, but it's not bad either. But there are passages where we see what this film could have been had it not had to pander to star image: say, during a scene where two drunk men follow the Rajinikanth character. I did not see that payoff coming. And heck, there's a sword attack on a child and bodies being dissolved in acid. But most of the menace is handled by Vinayakan, who is superb as the villain. The cinematographer Vijay Kartik Kannan shoots the actor in warm, bronze tones and with many, many close-ups that make him seem like a maniacal head without a body. What a presence Vinayakan has, whether it's sitting cross-legged on a man he is killing or smoking on top of a barrel of acid! He deserved a better graph and Rajinikanth deserves a better movie.

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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.