For the first one hour, Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu (VV) is an extremely engrossing watch. Technically polished with the narrative moving ahead surely and steadily, you go along with DCP Raghavan piecing together the mystery bit by bit as he does while hunting for a serial killer in USA. But at a particular point and sadly much, much too soon, director Gautham Vasudev Menon chooses to open all his cards, go neutral and reveal the killers. The ploy fails to work as thereafter the film derails and plummets and for all its style, it fails to get back on track; a pity because the film had much potential to truly be a kickass action thriller. As it is, it finally ends up as an average and even dissatisfying watch after the promising beginning.
Director Menon goes bigger but not necessarily better in this follow up to Kaakha Kaakha (2003) and its Telugu re-make, Gharshana (2004). Kaakha Kaakha worked much better overall cohesively as a film whereas though VV has its moments, some typical deft Menon touches and some fine performances, these fail to add up as convincingly to a whole as they should. As usual, you have to blame the screenplay. After the riveting first hour, where the film sticks to its plot and you are given the main character's back story as well with minimum fuss, the film starts to falter. The Kamal Haasan - Jyothika track, though reasonably well handled and integrated reasonably nicely into the main track, gradually does slow down the narrative while revealing the killers leaves you at the interval with very little story left in the film - you know now it's a one to one between Kamal and the two killers and the culmination of the Kamal - Jyothika romance. Unfortunately, this switch of POV and the ensuing cat and mouse game fails to be enaging as the killers are none-too interesting and their back stories not engrossing enough or convincing either. We know they have a connection but as they seem to rape women individually, yet stick to each other, we don't really know are they lovers or not? Ilamaran does have Amudhan's name tattooed on his back with a heart so... Worse, the film runs out of original ideas here. The bits with the killers roaming about in disguise takes you into typical 'filmi' territory, there is a terrible item number in this part of the film, attacking the officer's near and dear ones is straight out of Kaakha Kaakha and the end with Jyothika being buried alive but surviving is unbelievable as hell as is Kamal Haasan's leap from the burning apartment in the first half of the film. To top it all, all of this takes up considerable screen table telling heavily on the length of the film as you begin to feel that the film has too little story to sustain such a long running time. A film of this type should have been of a crisp two hours duration and no more.
Then there are logic loopholes, the deathknell of any thriller. For instance, when the killers leave the apartment in Brooklyn and escape, why do they carelessly leave Raghavan in the burning room assuming he would die rather than make sure they actually kill him? Of course, as the hero he survives though as mentioned above, unbelievably so.
Still, the film has its moments as mentioned. The film has a fine atmosphere and feel and Menon develops the relationships nicely - both between Kamalini Mukherjee and Kamal Haasan, a whirlwind romance, which counters well with the mature and more subtle development of the Kamal - Jyothika one as both of them try to come to terms with the emotional baggage they're carrying. For once, it's refreshing to see two mature and sensible people who are able to talk things out and communicate honestly with each other. Then there are of course some typical Menon's signatures. His heroes normally fall in love at first sight while the more practical women don't. We see this here between Kamal Haasan and Kamalini, we see it with Suriya and Sameera Reddy in Vaaranam Aayiram (2008) and also with Simbu and Trisha in Vinaithaandi Varuvaayaa (2010) as well. His women always (thankfully) have a mind of their own and here too, Jyothika grows in the film as she gets her life back together and in that sense is a nicely fleshed out character.
And then there are the performances.
Kamal Haasan shows why he is regarded as one of India's finest actors. He sinks into his role of the weather beaten, middle-aged, tough cop with an emotional baggage, who nevertheless gets on with his life, a sort of middle-aged Anbuselvan from Kaakha Kaakha. Jyothika definitely gives one of her better performances (Kaakha Kaakha, Mozhi (2007)), being more understated than she usually is and has her moments, matching up to Kamal in many of their dialogue sequences but you do wish the dubbing for her, matched her performance. As it is, the two don't go too well. Of the supporting cast, Prakash Raj is reliably efficient making the most of the few scenes he has, the American actors Ajay Naidu, as the philandering husband of Jyothika, and Lev Gorn, as the NYPD detective assisting Kamal are very so-so while Daniel Balaji and Saleem Baig ham big time as the doctors who are serial killers. Kamilini Mukherjee leaves her mark in her brief role.
The film is extremely polished technically. One has to mention Ravi Varman's stylish cinematography, the overall production design of the film and Harris Jayraj's music. Still, you do feel the film has gone overboard with the jimmy jib and overturned shots in many places. There's no doubt the music is always extremely strong in Menon's films and VV is no exception. Of the songs, Partha Muthal is easily the standout song in terms of composition as well as being the best picturised song in the film. Manjal Veiyil is another fine composition but the item number Nerupae is a big no-no and does nothing for the film. Anthony's editing is far too flashy and attention grabbing in the name of style and as the film goes on and on, it begins to tell on you.The action sequences are ok enough without being spectacular.
All in all, VV is a decent enough watch but one which had the potential to be far, far better.