In the late 80s, a run-of-the-mill action-thriller catapulted its hero, an unfamiliar face, to stardom. The action movie landscape of that era was dominated by beefed up hunks like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Bruce Willis’s John McClane of Die Hard hardly possessed the physical attributes of the action heroes of the times; he was an average joe, quite quotidian, who looked like he did not stand a chance against an army of armed hostage takers. Die Hard has since inspired plenty of filmmakers, and the premise of one man against a band of hostage takers has been a familiar setting in countless thrillers.
Nelson Dilipkumar’s Vijay-starrer too borrows the Die Hard premise. East Cost mall is Beast’s Nacatomi Plaza; there is a militant group—not just any militant group, the ISIS itself—that has taken the mall goers hostage, but the hero slips away, much like McClane, and it is up to this one man to save the day. The setting is similar, the season is the same (almost Christmas), but of course, the man up for the task is no ordinary copper, unlike the protagonist in Die Hard. He is Indian James bond, as someone describes him. A superhero of sorts, impervious to bullets because he flies between them, proficient with weapons of every size, shape and lethality—from bare-knuckle, to knives, guns, grenades, bazooka and even combat aircraft. He is former RAW agent Veeraraghavan.
With Kolamaavu Kokila and Doctor, Nelson has evinced his penchant for exploring uncanny characters with darker shades. The track record, of course, did help in creating hype around Beast. However, the director seems to be in awe of the star that Vijay is, and grants the actor all his familiar tropes, including a tribute to himself in the form of punch lines from his earlier flicks. Vijay’s Veeraraghavan is a quiet killing machine, he also a master dancer, a wisecracker, and a romantic hero. The ‘pasam’ quotient is sufficiently high too; this time around, the protagonist’s heart bleeds for little kids. While it is important to make your hero human (unless your hero is Iko Uwais in The Raid), Nelson’s Veeraraghavan is the redeemer hero that Vijay has been playing in most of his previous films.
Every hostage drama worth its salt is full of edge of the seat moments, but Beast is bereft of any tension, thanks to the comedy track involving a spurned lover, a security firm owner, Yogi Babu who is a Nelson regular, and the leading lady, played by Pooja Hegde. There is also a Union minister who has an axe to grind in the whole hostage affair, but this character, too, is made out to be a clown. This time around, the director isn’t even going for the sardonic humor that he opted for in his earlier flicks, but treads the slapstick route, making it impossible for the audience to be worried about the safety of those trapped inside the mall.
The movie also suffers due to the lack of a menacing antagonist. For most part of the movie, the leader of the ISIS group, that is pitted against Veeraraghavan, is seen in a mask. The mask does not lead to a big reveal, but a passing twist that you don’t really care anymore because of all the fun and frolic during the hostage crisis. The other baddies, the aforementioned minister, and another militant, have little to contribute to the hostage drama.
Beast is an out and out Vijay movie, made for the actor’s die hard fans (pun intended). The actor absolutely owns the screen, especially in action sequences. The action, of course, calls for suspension of disbelief, but the star is convincing enough in the scenes, if you are a fan. The fights are well-choreographed, especially the air battle in the climax, well-assisted by Anirudh Ravichander’s background score.
There was some hype around Mollywood actor Shine Tom Chacko featuring in a Vijay movie, with some even claiming that he would be playing one of the antagonists. However, the talented actor hardly gets any screen presence, and is wasted in the role of one of the terrorists. Hegde looks pretty, and that’s pretty much her role —look pretty, stay pretty throughout the hostage crisis, and feel jealous when another girl looks at her man. Director Selvaraghavan shines as the government negotiator Altaf Hussain (the good Muslim trope is thus intact).
Beast is strictly for Vijay fans, and lovers of mindless mass movies.
Director: Nelson Dilipkumar
Cast: Vijay, Pooja Hegde, Yogi Babu, Selvaraghavan, Shine Tom Chacko