‘Joshua: Imai Pol Kaakha’ movie review: Gautham Menon loses the plot — hook line and sinker — in this chaotic mess

Anbuselvan. Raghavan. Sathyadev. Karthik. Suriya, son of Krishnan. These are names that resonate deeply with 80s and 90s kids who grew up with the signature protagonists of Gautham Vasudev Menon’s cinematic world. The archetypal “GVM hero” has been etched into the hearts of audiences as sensitively seasoned yet still flawed romantic figures. With Menon’s past films making a resurgence in theaters, it seems the charm of these characters is as venerable as ever. These heroes often embody the upper-middle-class resilience, a genteel demeanor combined with a zest for motorcycles and jeeps, and a Shakespearean-level capacity for romance.

However, audiences were caught off guard with the newest addition to Gautham Vasudev Menon’s hero pantheon – Joshua, from the film “Joshua: Imai Pol Kaakha.” This new protagonist is nothing short of a narrative disappointment, a stark contrast to the director’s former glories. In this endeavor, Joshua represents an emotionless shadow of the archetype, coming across as an apathetic John McLane or a half-hearted version of John Wick. Placing such a character at the center of a lackluster “Bodyguard”-esque narrative is a critical misstep that does not go unnoticed.

The portrayal of Joshua by actor Varun exacerbates the issues of the film, with a performance reliant on eyebrow theatrics rather than any semblance of authentic emotional delivery. This interpretation of the contract killer turned lawless protector comes across as a plastic character, devoid of the depth or moral complexities that characterize Menon’s previous heroes.

The storyline follows Joshua, whose work as a contract killer takes a turn upon meeting Kundhavi Chidambaram, played by Raahei, an ambitious lawyer on the verge of becoming an assistant district attorney in New York. Through a series of questionable events and actions, Joshua transitions into a role as Kundhavi’s bodyguard within a plot that is both uninspired and riddled with clichés.

One of the film’s critical downfalls is its dialogue, lacking the emotional weight and believability that typically binds Menon’s narratives. Conversations between Joshua and secondary characters about life-or-death decisions are handled with robotic indifference. At one stage when Madhavi, portrayed by Divyadarshini (DD), suggests the team accept a bounty on Kundhavi, the exchange is as lackluster as it is implausible, beneath the standards of suspenseful action cinema.

The relationship between Joshua and Kundhavi is perplexing, leaving audiences to wonder why an accomplished and independent woman would invest her heart in a man who represents numerous red flags. This narrative decision further undermines the credibility of the plot and the depth of its characters.

When it comes to the tactical aspect of protecting Kundhavi from a looming drug lord, the film fails to deliver a coherent strategy, resorting to an oversimplified game of safehouse hopping within Chennai’s city limits. This further emphasizes the lackadaisical approach to the action genre and strips away the thrill one would expect from such a film.

In addition to the lack of compelling drama, the action sequences themselves are underwhelming, failing to evoke the necessary adrenaline or emotional investment. Rather than capturing the essence of cinematic exhilaration, they become repetitive and contribute to the overall tedium of the viewing experience.

Questions of casting and narrative choices remain, leaving one to ponder the motivation behind bringing this film to life, especially in the wake of previous successes like “Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada” and “Enai Noki Paayum Thota.” The involvement of characters like Krishna, playing Koti, a local gangster, seems like a mere plot device rather than an integrated part of storytelling, which further compounds the film’s issues.

“Joshua: Imai Pol Kaakha,” as a whole, is a film that is likely to evoke frustration rather than fondness. It stands as an emblem of missed opportunities and perplexing narrative decisions in Gautham Menon’s otherwise compelling filmography. The character of Joshua, unfortunately, joins the fray as a bulletproof embodiment of lackluster ideas in the world of cinema, resistant even to the criticisms that might put an end to such underwhelming ventures. The movie is currently playing in theaters, yet its presence may leave viewers longing for the Menon magic of yore rather than embracing this latest chapter.

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