The Tamil action blockbuster “Vikram” has made its way to US streaming (Hulu) giving American audiences the chance to see their highest grossing film of the year. Written and directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj, this is the second film in his shared universe of action thrillers. It’s a movie loaded with ambition, and the craft is undeniable. But it takes some time getting into it. That’s because there are layers upon layers of plot mixed with a seemingly never-ending buildup. But once it gets its footing and all of the story threads start coming together, there’s a reasonably good crime thriller to be found.
Tops among the film’s many characters is Amar (Fahadh Faasil), the leader of an off-the-grid special unit called Black Squad. They’re an elite group who are brought in to solve crimes through methods not readily available to the more law-abiding police. Whenever they’re given a mission, Black Squad stealthily enters and melds into a city or community, connects with the locals for information, tracks down their targets, and brings them to justice by any means necessary.
In this specific case, Black Squad is called in to hunt down a masked killer who has been targeting and brutally slaying cops. Among his victims was a police inspector named Prabhanjan (Kalidas Jayaram). But what made his murder stand out from the others was that the masked man also killed Prabhanjan’s adopted father, Karnan (Kamal Haasan) who has no connection to the police department. Amar and his team latch onto this inconsistency in the killer’s pattern and make it the centerpiece of their investigation.
Through a heavy dose of flashbacks we begin learning more about Prabhanjan and especially Karnan, who becomes a raging alcoholic after his son was killed. As the mystery unfolds, Karnan’s story takes some unexpected turns. Meanwhile separate links to police corruption emerge. And a notorious drug lord Sandhanam (Vijay Sethupathi), the leader of the violent Vetti Vagaiyara gang, becomes a key player and one the main antagonists for the rest of the movie.
Layers continue to be peeled back like onions, and even more characters are introduced as the mystery at the heart of story gets less and less murkier. While the first half will test your endurance, the second half finally gets to a decent enough payoff – one that both (kinda) finishes this story while teases an inevitable sequel. And of course we get the style-heavy action scenes that offer a healthy dose of fight sequences and shootouts. They range from tense yet wildly fun to utterly preposterous.
Yet despite its more attractive pieces, “Vikram” never quite comes together as a whole. That’s because too much of its hefty 174-minute running time is spent weaving together a story that’s more complicated than it needs to be. We spend too much time waiting for the movie to kick into gear and deliver the big action beats we know are coming. These are nagging issues that the film’s star power and impressive style can’t quite make up for. “Vikram” is now streaming on Hulu.