Leo Movie Review: Well, the cat's out of the bag. Lokesh Kanagaraj's Leo is a part of his own created LCU (Lokesh Cinematic Universe), but whether the film or its charismatic lead will be revisited in the future remains to be seen. Leo is also a remake of David Cronenberg's visceral crime drama, A History of Violence, with added spicy elements, of course, to make it more appealing to the mainstream audience. Fans of A History of Violence might not embrace Leo, and it's not as cleverly written as Vikram, and certainly not on par with Kaithi - easily the best film in LCU. However, Thalapathy Vijay's new movie is quite engaging, even if the second half feels weaker compared to the arresting first half. Leo Craze! Fans of Thalapathy Vijay Sing, Scream and Hoot in Theatres, Celebrate the Film's Release Day With Enthusiasm.

Parthiban (Vijay) is a family man, residing in the snow-capped town of Theog in Himachal Pradesh with his wife Sathya (Trisha, beautiful and graceful but not given the emotional depth that Maria Bello brought to AHOV), and his two kids (Mathew Thomas and Iyal). He runs a local cafe there and is also an occasional animal rescuer. In fact, his introduction scene is a thrilling sequence where Parthiban is tasked with capturing a hyena that went on a rampage in the town. After Pulimurugan, RRR, Bhediya, and now Leo, well, at least our VFX doesn't falter when it comes to digitally creating convincing animals.

Nevertheless, a violent incident at his cafe brings Parthiban into the media spotlight and places his family in constant danger. But that's not the only problem for Leo. Some people arrive in town claiming to know Parthiban, except they knew him as Leo Das, the son of a notorious smuggler, Antony Das (Sanjay Dutt), and the nephew of the equally ruthless Harold Das (Arjun Sarja). Parthiban keeps denying any knowledge of these people or that he is Leo, but Antony and his men persistently harass him and his family, leading to escalating violence.

Watch the Trailer of Leo:

It's challenging to recall the last time I was somewhat impressed by a Thalapathy Vijay film, irrespective of their box office successes. Even Vijay's last film with Lokesh Kanagaraj, which wasn't in the LCU, Master, left a similar impression on me. The issue with these films is that they become more about the star and less about the director. Leo feels different, though. We have a restrained Vijay, and, wow, he delivers a very impressive performance. The film feels like it belongs more to the director, who isn't fixated on pandering to his hero's superstar image - although he occasionally indulges in it (and I enjoyed that in small doses) - but rather focuses on crafting a compelling narrative around his hero without losing his touch.

A Still From Leo (Photo Credits: Seven Screen Studio)

The first half, especially, is proof of that. Even though the narrative closely follows A History of Violence, when used against Vijay's established persona, the concept works wonders. Parthiban's family life scenes are well-executed, Vijay's chemistry with Trisha remains intact after all these years, and Mathew Thomas and Iyal excel in their roles.

So when Parthiban is compelled to resort to violence, and the viewer discovers that he is surprisingly adept at it, those scenes felt impactful. Even more effective are the scenes that follow. Parthiban's heroics come at a cost, and his PTSD and palpable anxiety are convincingly portrayed. The snow-covered locales of Himachal provide a stunning backdrop for the plot, beautifully captured by Manoj Paramahamsa's cinematography.

A Still From Leo (Photo Credits: Seven Screen Studio)

The action sequences may not be groundbreaking, but they are well-executed, especially the fight scene within the cafe. Certainly, some trimming in the length of these portions could have been beneficial, as has always been an issue with superstar vehicles. However, Leo builds upto a fine promise when these sequences introduce the two main villains and provide a glimpse into the mysterious Leo.

A Still From Leo (Photo Credits: Seven Screen Studio)

The second half is where the film falters. The writing feels weak in these portions. The flashback sequences, while tapping into Vijay's mass appeal, lack the impact they should have, despite featuring a couple of cameos (including a Bollywood director who sees his wish fulfilled). A certain actress is cast as Leo's sibling, but they never felt convincing together to make the bonding work, and the lack of screentime fails to make this arc powerful when it concludes. Leo Telugu Release: Legal Suit Dismissed Against Thalapathy Vijay-Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Film.

Moreover, although they bring enough menace with their presence, Sanjay Dutt and Arjun are burdened with poorly written villain roles, especially if you have seen A History of Violence, and remember how malevolent Ed Harris and the late William Hurt were in the film.

A Still From Leo (Photo Credits: Seven Screen Studio)

The second half is also where Lokesh Kanagaraj's expertise experiences both highs and lows. Some scenes, like a factory fight shown through a bird's eye tracking shot, are impressive, while the final scene between Parthiban and Harold works despite predictability, thanks to how Lokesh times the reveal just right.

But there are times when the director goes overboard, diminishing what could have been a masterful scene. This includes a car chase scene that feels more like a video game than anything realistic. Another instance is an emotional sequence between Parthiban and Sathya, beginning with an emotional outburst (beautifully performed by Vijay) and concluding with a tender kiss. It could have been a touching scene, but Anirudh's score, though a major asset in elevating chutzpah in other scenes, feels superfluous here. A subtler musical approach could have worked wonders.

A Still From Leo (Photo Credits: Seven Screen Studio)

It's hard not to notice that LK is struggling to match the benchmarks set by Kaithi. Vikram tried hard and succeeded to some extent, but Leo hardly achieves that memorable sequence that could stand on its own within the LCU, like the gatling gun or biriyani scene in Kaithi, or Agent Tina or the interval block of Vikram.

As for the LCU inclusions, they are primarily aimed at pleasing the fans, including the franchise-baiting ending, though Leo easily functions better without them. Still, they are moments worth clapping for, and what's wrong with that!

Final Thoughts

Leo presents a refreshing take on Thalapathy Vijay's usual formulaic star-centric films. The first half impressively balances narrative depth with action, showcasing Vijay's restrained performance. However, the second half falls short with weaker writing and underdeveloped villain characters, making Leo the weakest film in Lokesh Cinematic Universe.


(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Oct 19, 2023 11:34 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).