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54321 review: Promising plot scarred by slothful script

Tamil film, 54321, presents a great opportunity by way of a plot which sadly has been flittered away by a lousy script.

movie reviews Updated: Aug 26, 2016 11:22 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran
54321 is a psychological thriller starring Shabeer and Aarvin GR.
54321 is a psychological thriller starring Shabeer and Aarvin GR.

54321
Director: Ragavendra Prasad
Cast: Shabeer, Aarvin GR, Pavithra Gowda, Rohini
Rating: 2/5

The first thoughts that cross my mind as the first frames of Ragavendra Prasad’s strangely titled film, 54321, flash by are their resemblance to the renowned Austrian director, Michael Haneke’s 1997 Cannes competitor, Funny Games. Here, two young men impose themselves on a holidaying, wealthy Austrian family and torture it by forcing the middle-aged couple and their two children to play sadistic games. I know that even some hardcore critics rushed out of the cinema, and a few even puked. Such was the uneasiness that the psychological thriller caused.

Although Prasad has said that his movie was inspired by the Mexican helmer, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel, made in 2006 (I could not get the connection, though), 54321, is closer in spirit to Funny Games, and like this work, plays on the psyche. Prasad’s film is about five people, four lifestyles, three murders in two hours and one, revenge. Hence, the title.

Watch the trailer of 54321 here:

Vikram (essayed by Shabeer) and Vinoth (GR Aarvin) are foster brothers. While their parents treat their adopted son, Vinoth, with kindness, their biological boy, Vikram, for some peculiar reason, seems to pass through a rough time, and he grows up psychologically warped up and thirsting for retaliation. Vikram gets his chance many years later -- when the brothers are no longer in touch with each other.

One night, Vikram breaks into the bungalow of Vinoth and his wife, Anjali (Pavithra Gowda) and ties them (including the couple’s baby girl) up to begin a game of brutality. Vikram orders Vinoth to kill his daughter (she is disguised so her identity is unknown) in return for his wife’s life. And the mentally challenged Vikram (he has escaped from a mental asylum) sets into motion a chilling horror by cutting off the woman’s fingers! Watching all this from behind a fireplace is a thief, who had chosen that night to rob the couple of their money and jewels.

The film’s plot looks very similar to that of Austrian director Michael Haneke’s 1997 Funny Games.

I would say, it is quite a novel plot, which has been messed by a callously written screenplay. Here is one example. During the dark night, there were occasions when the thief or the brothers’ father (who had also been brought to the house in a gunny bag by the villain) could have easily helped the couple escape. In fact, Vinoth pleads with the thief when he steps out of the fireplace to help them, but he seems all stunned and shocked by what is going on, and unable to do anything. This is the biggest howler -- when disbelief has to be suspended and sent off packing.

There are other holes. Vikram’s viciousness is never convincingly explained, though a mention is made about his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and its link to violent thoughts. And why do his parents treat him as if he were their stepson!

The romance between Anjali and Vinoth appears so forced and quite out of place in a thriller. Is this meant to make the movie “commercially viable”?

Average performances do not help either to lift 54321 off the ground. A promising plot scarred by a slothful script.