In his recent interview with Galatta Plus, H Vinoth said that he doesn't care as much about the "story" of his films as the "information" he can deliver about the milieu the narrative is set in. But ironically, the best part of Thunivu – apart from Nirav Shah's very classy cinematography – is that story. You think it's a heist. And then you realise it's a heist within a heist. And then… let's just say there's a third layer. Had this premise been developed to its fullest, this would have been a cracker of a thriller instead of the generic Shankar-style vigilante action movie it ends up being – give or take a few updates from the Gentleman template. Ajith sports a white shirt, a white beard, and his stylish statement "this heist is mine" may be one of the coolest mass moments of the year.
But who is he? Who is the character played by Manju Warrier, who has fun breaking out of the heavy roles she usually gets? They call each other "partner". Are they just mercenary business partners or is there something more? How do they manage to evade the approximately 75 million bullets fired at them in an action sequence? They kill cops at will, and yet they do good? Why? I get the feeling Vinoth feels more comfortable with inhuman processes – like how mutual funds can harm people – than in flesh-and-blood people. And this is both a plus and a minus. On the plus side, it is refreshing to leave a relationship undefined, and let the audience make it out to be whatever they want it to be. But conversely, it's hard to really get into a film without feeling or caring for anyone at all.
I never expected H Vinoth to get into the "corporates are evil" zone that some of our Tamil filmmakers love so much - but here he is, using a heist story to give us an exposé of the banking system. Again, the plot points – that is, the components of the "story" – are interesting as concepts. A long interview-like scene, for instance, is a great idea to tell us that if a heist is being done in the bank, then the banks are doing a bigger heist on people. The reason for Ajith's character to get into this space is also well thought out: it's a job he refuses when offered to him but then takes up himself after a discovery. But beyond a point, these concepts are not interesting enough on screen because they are rushed through, and the frantic editing makes you feel you are watching the film at 1.5x speed.
Some of the action is not bad, but these scenes are less effective than they should be because of the non-stop slo-mo that keeps reminding us that this is all just wire work. Samuthirakani plays a cop, who really should have had a much bigger part to play in the proceedings. (But you could say that about everyone.) At least, apart from Ajith's fan service (including a moonwalking bit), the film is tonally uniform, which helps to maintain the mood. But by the end, Thunivu is further proof that these big-star movies are really a kind of IIT entrance exam for directors. You put in a ton of hard work, you spend sleepless nights, you mug up all the formulas, but at the end, only a select few slip through.