'Turbo' movie review: Mammootty punches hard in this vapid actioner

The lack of strong character arcs and fresh ideas in storytelling derails a potential fun ride
First look poster of Mamootty's 'Turbo'
First look poster of Mamootty's 'Turbo'IMDb photo

In one of his last interviews, late scriptwriter Dennis Joseph recounted a phase when he faced a severe demand for scripts modelled on his blockbuster Mammootty-starrer, Kottayam Kunjachan (1990).

Though Sangham (1988) was the first film in which he experimented with a brash, achayan hero, it was Kottayam Kunjachan that caught widespread attention.

Such was the popularity enjoyed by the film and the character that Mammootty, known for his distinct performances, didn’t bother repeating it. Kizhakkan Pathrose (1992), Oru Maravathoor Kanavu (1998), Pothen Vava (2006)... Mammootty’s performances in all these films had shades of Kunjachan, albeit in varying degrees. Turbo Jose is the latest Kunjachan prototype in town.

Over the years, Malayalam cinema has established a set of stereotypes for high range achayan characters and Midhun Manuel Thomas sticks to it religiously while sketching Jose. A troublemaker for some, Jose is, in fact, a loyal and compassionate soul. He is surrounded by a bunch of sidekicks whose full-time job is singing paeans on Josettayi and his valour.

A petty conflict involving a woman and one of his acquaintances lands Jose in Chennai, where he soon finds himself entangled in a major scam. An outsider getting caught in a world of crime and eventually exposing it is a standard template of issue-based films from the early 2000s, and Turbo hasn’t come a long way from those days.

The makers somehow manage to hold the attention by punctuating its otherwise tedious narrative with frequent action blocks—set in church grounds, shopping mall, bus, police station and cold storage warehouse. Mammootty, despite his age limitations, doesn’t stop himself from packing a punch and looks thoroughly convincing as a smashing machine. 

Though director Vysakh has been on a lean patch lately, he is in his elements while handling action—his forte. There is a wonderfully executed chase sequence in the second half, which is among the very few exciting moments in the whole film. The film would have been more riveting had there been a method to the action rather than Mammootty tearing apart the goons with tools of various shapes and sizes.

And for some reason, there’s no end to the bad guys in this film. It gets so monotonous that after a point Mammootty himself yells, “Ithinoru anthyamille?” In another strange moment of meta-reference, the villain, who does cliche villainism, grumbles, “I hate bloody old cliches!” Glad that the makers are at least self aware.

While on the villain, a lot was expected from an actor of the stature of Raj B Shetty, but unfortunately, there isn’t enough fodder for him to feed on. He is introduced as a business tycoon and the mastermind of a crime syndicate. Some call him a “born criminal,” while some say he is a “psycho”. He travels in swanky cars and helicopters, smoking a beedi and killing people for fun, but at no point does he come across as a threat or a worthy opponent to this unstoppable force called Jose.

For elevating a criminal mastermind powerful enough to plot the downfall of a government overnight, it demands better writing than trying to kill the hero’s mother. Bindu Panicker excels in the mother’s role, often slipping into hilarious retorts. Watch out for the scene where her heart bleeds for Tony Stark. There’s certainly a sly Marvel fan in the camp; otherwise there’s no reason for Iron Man, Thanos’ Gauntlet and Thor’s hammer to sneak their way into the film.

At a time when there are raging discussions on the absence of women in Malayalam films, there’s Anjana Jayaprakash present throughout Turbo, but still not in a meaty role. The lack of strong character arcs and fresh ideas in storytelling is one of the film’s biggest lapses. Though the writing fails him, Vysakh is ably supported by his technicians—cinematographer Vishnu Sarma, editor Shameer Muhammed and composer Christo Xavier.

Vishnu employs POV shots to good effect during the fight scenes and chases as it puts us right in the midst of the action. Christo Xavier, on his part, keeps thrusting some adrenaline-pumping music to elevate the moments, but there’s only so much that he can do. It also feels like some of his tunes still have the hangover of his track The Age of Madness from Bramayugam.

They say, ‘Save the best for the last.’ The makers of Turbo took it quite seriously by stuffing in a desperate tail-end, which, truth be told, is just needless icing on an already stale cake. 

Film: Turbo

Director: Vysakh

Cast: Mammootty, Raj B Shetty, Anjana Jayaprakash, Bindu Panicker

Rating : 2/5 stars

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