Mafia: Chapter I movie review — Arun Vijay's thriller is an uber-stylish film with a wafer-thin plot
Mafia showcases a face-off between the Narcotics Control Bureau chief Aryan and Diwakar, a drug lord masquerading as a respectable businessman
There was huge hype surrounding Karthick Naren’s Mafia – Chapter I, his second release after the highly impressive and talked-about Dhruvangal Pathinaaru. It has an exciting star cast — the charismatic Arun Vijay, a fine actor like Prasanna and the lovely Priya Bhavani Shankar, and is bankrolled by leading producers Lyca Productions. The trailer and character posters of the Narcos-style thriller had gone viral and the pre-release buzz too was positive.
Does the film live up to its huge expectations?
Mafia is packaged as an ultra-stylish film with a wafer-thin storyline and looks more like a new generation crime series on a streaming platform. It is slow-paced even though the run time is only 112 minutes, reaches a crescendo in its knock out big reveal climax, which is the highlight. The stunning twist at the end looks more like a base for the one-line story for a Chapter II. The film does not live up to the hype and expectations you would anticipate out of a Karthick Naren film.
It seems the screenplay was put together after signing Arun Vijay and Prasanna together in the film. The battle lines are clearly drawn, as the tag line of the film says – the hunter versus the beast. The story hinges on the face-off between the Narcotics Control Bureau chief Aryan (Arun Vijay), who is trying to hunt down Diwakar (Prasanna), the drug lord masquerading as a respectable businessman. Early on, we are given a lot of statistics that narcotics usage is increasing in the state which has seen a 60 percent spike and 300 reported deaths due to overdose of drugs like cocaine.
Aryan decides to take on the drug cartel, along with his colleagues Sathya (Priya Bhavani Shankar) and Varun after his boss and another anti-drugs social activist Mugilan (Thalaivasal Vijay) are shot dead. Meanwhile, Diwakar with the backing of powerful people in high places, tries to thwart his attempts to uncover the drug mafia. What follows is an interesting cat and mouse game between the two before their paths cross in the climax.
The first half is full of character introduction and plods along with a weakly written narrative. It also lacks the energy that one might expect from such a plot. However, Karthick makes it up in the pacey second half, with the surprise and terrific climax twist. In a way, the sudden turn at the end raises the audience’s expectations for Chapter II. Arun Vijay is simply terrific and looks smashing as Aryan, while Prasanna as the suave and soft-spoken antagonist leaves an impact. And Priya Bhavani Shankar may not have much screen space but one single scene in the climax when she guns down a bad guy shows the performer in her. Another major plus of the film is the music and sound design. Jakes Bejoy’s background score creates the right mood and elevates the film. The action scenes are choreographed in a different pattern. However, there are too many slow-motion scenes, especially in the first half to show the swag for character introduction.
On the whole Mafia: Chapter I is stylishly cut but has very little substance. But the climax has kindled the expectation meter for Chapter II. In fact, just for the seven minute climax surprise twist we are going with a higher rating than it would have deserved.
The untitled film is the second collaboration between Jr NTR and Koratala Siva after Janatha Garage, and will release in multiple languages in theatres on 29 April, 2022.
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