If you watch Valimai without knowing the name of its director, there is a good chance you will assume it has been directed by Siva (Viswasam, Vivegam), one of the regular collaborators of actor Ajith Kumar. The distinct voice that was present in director H. Vinoth’s past movies is sorely missing in Valimai.
Valimai, which means strength, begins with a brooding police commissioner standing at the balcony of his high-rise apartment in Chennai. He is in his pyjamas but sleep eludes him as lawlessness and anarchy have become the order of the day.
Despite having the entire police force and support of cutting edge technology at his disposal, he watches over the city and wonders, who will protect its people?
The top cop somehow hopes his prayers for help will reach the saviour, who can deliver the city from the clutches of Satan, which is how the main antagonist, played by Kartikeya Gummakonda, is addressed.
Add quite a build-up after that and we are finally ready to meet our hero, Arjun (Ajith Kumar). The introduction scene comes amid a lot of gusto and fervour, with the weather god adding to the effect with thunderstorm and lighting.
Vinoth goes old school when it comes to setting up the movie; it seems he really wanted to create an urban myth. He begins the story with some promise even as it lacks originality in terms of staging, dialogues or creating hype for the hero’s arrival. After the initial hubbub settles down, it becomes painfully clear that the movie has very little to offer.
Vinoth’s idea of creating an urban legend goes awry when the film fails to distinguish Ajith’s offscreen persona from Ajith’s character in Valimai. The reference to Ajith’s passion for motorbikes is used as bait one too many times. And when the fans bite it, they are whipped into a frenzy.
There is so much action on the screen but very little happens in every scene. The chase sequences play out on seemingly endless roads. Arjun keeps riding various types of bikes on streets, on highways, off-roads. And he even uses his bike to jump from one high-rise into another.
The scene seems indebted to the Etihad Towers jump sequence in Furious 7. And all these action sequences don’t add up to anything bigger than the simple excitement of fans watching their favourite star pop a wheelie.
The movie uses worn-out ideas to establish Arjun as a good cop, dutiful son, big-hearted brother and an exemplary human being. Especially, the mother arc in the movie feels like Vinoth’s desperate attempt to crawl out of the quagmire of no new ideas.
Kartikeya Gummakonda gets a raw deal as the villain, who is interested in tattoos, face make-up, and, of course, bikes. Keeping in line with the narrative style of the film, even his acting as a cold-blooded leader of a criminal gang is unoriginal.
His idea of channelling evil belongs in a museum, not on the big screen in 2022. When the villain of a movie is written so poorly, imagine the fate of other characters.