Move over, Marvel Cinematic Universe. You too, DC Universe! There’s a sparkly new cinematic universe in town and it ain’t you two!
To be fair, the Lokesh Cinematic Universe (LCU) isn’t entirely new either, as its first instalment, “Kaithi”, was released in 2019.
Yet, in a time when people are keen to say “see you” to CUs, the LCU is certainly showing much potential, much to the delight of followers.
Thus, it was with much gusto that “Leo”, the third and latest of Lokesh Kanagaraj’s action-thrillers, was released in Malaysian cinemas on Thursday.
Alongside many other big names, top Tamil actor Joseph Vijay Chandrasekhar takes the lead as the titular hero protagonist.
Set largely in the snowy Himachal Pradesh region, “Leo” follows Parthiban, an animal rescuer, restaurateur and family man.
Yet, the loving husband and father has a violent streak in him, which shows itself when he brutalises bandits threatening his loved ones.
When news of this act of self-defence makes headlines throughout India, it draws the wrong sort of attention: the families of those bandits come looking for him, vowing vengeance.
At the same time, powerful drug lord Antony Das (Sanjay Dutt) and his enforcer brother Harold (Arjun Sarja) take a special interest in Parthiban.
You see, years ago, the drug lord’s son Leo (also played by Vijay) fell out with Antony and greatly damaged their operations before apparently succumbing to his wounds.
As Parthiban bears a striking resemblance to Leo (heh), Antony decides to confront the family man to take care of unfinished business.
With his true identity being questioned – plus his family’s life on the line – Parthiban must take matters into his own hands, any blood on it be damned.
As to be expected of LCU films, “Leo” is a film that is definitely not for youngsters or the fainthearted.
More often than not, the action scenes are visceral, and there are many, many such sequences throughout. The opening scene itself sees a man being stabbed and left to bleed out – and it’s one of the tamest deaths in the film!
Whoever choreographed the fight scenes must be commended for their work, even if their bloodthirst is worrisome. Every punch, kick, stab and cut feels powerful here, with knives or hammers in places where they don’t belong.
That said, these same action scenes also come with their issues, mostly related to special effects.
Perhaps the animators were working on a shoestring budget, or they did not have enough time to polish their work, but the CGI is shoddy at times, most prominently during a night-time car-chase sequence.
Additionally, while the movie is very fast paced, the writing can be overly simplistic. The plot itself can be summarised as “family reunion gone really wrong”.
And while it could be deliberate – SPOILER ahead! – the final plot twist might leave you a little iffy on how you should view Parthiban’s character.
You see, at one point, Parthiban’s wife Sathya (Trisha Krishnan) privately investigates her husband’s identity. When Parthiban finds out, he is distraught and disappointed that she does not trust him to truly be the man she fell in love with.
This is all well and good, but a final revelation shows she had good reason to be suspicious, and Parthiban is one to talk!
We get it – lead characters don’t always have to be squeaky clean. But in this case, one can’t help but feel he is gaslighting his own wife… and can we truly call someone like that a hero?
As of press time, ‘Leo’ is screening in cinemas nationwide.