Cast: Vikram, Roshan Mathew and others
Director: Ajay Gnanamuthu
Run-Time: 183 Minutes
A genius mathematician named Madhiazhagan (Vikram) starts executing assassinations that can shake the world. He kills the Prince of Scotland despite heavy security deployment. He eliminates the Chief Minister of Odisha, shocking the Indian security establishment (actually, it may not be that baffled, considering how the CBI behaves). The Interpol decides to go after him but a mysterious hacker, whose identity is not clear until the interval, seems to be a step ahead of both the assassin and the Interpol.
In the early stretches of the first half, we see University students belonging to the Department of Criminology somewhere in an advanced country (it is difficult to keep track of the globe-trotting this film undertakes) discuss things that a commoner would learn by reading a newspaper report on a high-profile assassination. The pompous staging of the scene defines the pointless and sometimes vacuous nature of 'Cobra', whose story never gets told completely. Even as the end credits roll, a key character is saying something that might go into deepening our understanding of the protagonist and his complex life, provided we have the patience to care.
This brings us to the emotional beats of 'Cobra', which are barely explored in a way that can move the audience. Chiyaan Vikram's amazing portrayal of a mentally troubled person is barely uplifted by befitting writing. Had the flashbacks, which are told in installments, been narrated well, the present would have seemed heart-touching.
The Hollywoodian themes (in terms of framing the protagonist as a flawed genius, the basing of drama in more than a couple of countries, among others) don't add much value beyond a point. The assassin is a master of disguise and the dramatization is uneven when it is absent.
The romantic track between Madhiazhagan (Madhi in the Telugu version of the movie) and his girlfriend (played by Srinidhi Shetty of 'KGF' fame) is peppered with a solid scene that works in retrospect (Hint: it has the hero looking indifferent even as she pours her heart out). But the track loses its steam soon enough. Even the one song involving Vikram and the kids in the locality is a cliche at best. Almost all songs, for that matter, are used as superfluous stretches in a film that lasts for three hours.
AR Rahman's background score anticipates high-strung drama and style while the proceedings continue to throw up pacing issues. When the rare thrill factor subsides, the drama is sought to be elevated by making 'He is a star' and 'He is a genius' references to elevate the hero.
In the second half, there is an action sequence as it rains heavily. It's an example of a decent plot and reasonable execution coming together. The scene can't be discussed much without revealing the biggest spoiler of all. This brings us to the central deficiency of the film. In the case of the recent 'Sita Ramam' (Telugu), the interval twist pertaining to Sita can be discussed without harming the audience's interest much, because of the way the narration unfolds in the second half. In the case of 'Cobra', that's not the case, given how the swollen proceedings look far more puzzling than they actually are.
At any point of time, there are one too many reactions and multiple beats hinting at hidden threads. You are just tired out at the end. This half-baked narration is aggravated by silly elements like this: A Criminology student is seen helping even the Interpol figure out things!
And then there is a corporate leader named Rishi (Roshan Mathew), whose characterization and portrayal of the character make 'Cobra' feel like a regular Kollywood masala actioner and not a story that needs to be heard.
Check out the trailer below: