Reviewing a film like Kabali is an utterly pointless exercise. Who cares about a review when there is someone as enamoring as Rajinikanth scorching the screens…It is hard to believe that the super (duper) star has been reigning at the movies since the last many decades but there is no shine lost. He dazzles with all his might, his star power is overwhelming. And that’s how this film is designed. Call it vanity, call it pompous but like every Rajinikanth outing of the recent past, this too is all about him. Suck out his swagger and the movie is just a dull show.
#Kabali [Tamil+Telugu] sets new benchmarks in preview shows in USA-Canada… Takes an EPIC start on Thu: $ 1,925,379 [₹ 12.93 cr]. SUPERBBB!
— taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) 22 July 2016
Ranjith, who has previously made a provocative film like Madras, is in full fanboy mode. The gang-war drama is far from being subtle. It is loud, noisy and equally stylish. The Malaysian set up enhances the story and isn’t just a mere backdrop. After serving his 20-year long prison term, Kabali is freed. Rajini has done his homework well, reading up on the atrocities on Tamil Dalit workers in Malaysia with utmost perfection. As the leader of the downtrodden, he turns to crime to support the community and his men. There is a messiah like aura about this character which comes naturally to the actor. He relishes the role and his penchant casts a spell. His charisma, his canter, and his courage is what drives the film. The superstar smoothly shifts from one look to the other without glitches. He roars with vigor about how he was born to be a ruler, regardless of his lineage. Oh well, it is hard to not whistle to something this crowd pleasing.
— Only Kollywood (@OnlyKollywood) 23 July 2016
But then the clichés come into play. It wears the suspenseful look of a revenge drama. A ganglord named Tony Lee kills his wife Kumudavali (played impeccably by Radhika Apte). The first half is smashing. It is thrilling and in parts, it will run chills down your spine. There is a surprising amount of scenes that play with your mind. The identities are kept carefully wrapped and though gory, you’ve to be the robot to not have your adrenaline shooting up.
— Madhur Bhandarkar (@imbhandarkar) 22 July 2016
Compared to many other of the superstar’s films, the crime drama is not all superficial. It is smartly orchestrated with a sturdy political base. Thankfully, the writing is superlative. How a common man is pushed to become a superhero is a story that never fails you, if done right. And it doesn’t get more right than Thalaiva himself. The swooshing background score does its job quite well but mostly it is Rajini, who is in top form, doing all the talking. It is another one of his films in which he sleepwalks. As rhetorical as the question why watch Kabali sounds, the answer is unanimous.
But, it is undoubtedly another half baked attempt. It is difficult to keep the tempo soaring all through and when there is Rajini, the film doesn’t evoke much effect. The villains lack menace, the supporting cast is good but not enough to salvage the drooping energy. It is a long drawn effort that gets sluggish sometimes. You can’t kill Kabali, you can’t even bring him down, and sometimes to have faith in it for the entire two-and-a-half hours runtime is a little difficult.
The action is underwhelming (you’ll have to wait for Robot 2.0 to make amends). The climax is silly. In parts, the plot twists are lame. Kill logic or else you won’t be able to explain why Kabali needs to be a gangster in the first place for his people. Also, how does this Samaritan gangster run his business minus
prostitution and drugs. He is an outlaw but an idealistic version of it. Set off on the perilous journey of enjoying Kabali. It will remind you of Baasha but this one has a lot more style, oomph and swagger. Why watch Kabali? Now don’t ask that blasphemous question. Just for the love of Thalaiva.