'Cold Case' Review: Prithviraj's Whodunit Is Full of Unconvincing Bits
'Cold Case' starring Prithviraj Sukumaran has several red herrings, a bit of Japanese horror elements, and a bad wig
Review: Cold Case is Watchable but Full of Unconvincing Bits
(This article contains spoilers!)
Several red herrings, a bit of Japanese horror elements, a few predictable responses and one bad wig. That’s debut director Tanu Balak’s Cold Case summed up. Fans of the Japanese genre known as ‘J-horror’ will recognize the pattern: a seemingly innocent piece of technology turns out to be a malevolent agent of some evil force — here a red refrigerator. In fact the usage of water in scenes where the dark forces make an appearance seem very reminiscent of the Japanese film- Dark Water.
Yet, with much lower expectations of horror or thriller genres the film is actually pretty watchable. It cascades through a lot of disparate elements as two totally different worlds and individuals chase different parts of the same crime… only to arrive like two rivers into the sea at a conclusion pretty much at the same time. A visually interesting treatment.
The plot begins with the discovery of a skull wrapped in a black garbage bag in a fisherman's net (though why that would involve all the heavyweights of the police force to descend on the riverbank we will never know). Forensic analysis puts the murder to have been committed a year ago, but the police have no idea who the victim is.
The piecing together of the identity of the victim is interestingly done, whilst taking the audience along. The hunt for the killer is the crux of the movie and that’s where Assistant Commissioner of Police Sathyajith (Prithviraj Sukumaran) is called to investigate the case.
A very fit Prithviraj looks the part quite convincingly, but his star status seems to distract from every scene he’s in. In fact, his role seems contrived, underwritten and with no nuance, quite clearly to focus on him as a larger than life super cop. Case in point: ACP Sathyajith holding court to a group of senior police officials giving a one slide elementary course on how murder investigations should be conducted. High cringe. More attention is paid to his wardrobe fits, than the actual role.
But that’s not so in the case of Aditi Balan as Medha an investigative journalist. Hers is a much more layered character with a back story. Cold Case catches her at a trying time in her personal life where she’s in the midst of finalising a divorce. Her mother’s home, the locales and even the house Medha rents gives you a fair bit of old Kerala nostalgia.
She is not vilified for wanting her independence from a deadbeat marriage — a refreshing change and a much needed one considering the recurring news on TV these days.
You can see this progressive approach in the treatment of the supporting cast too. Women police officers are normalised as are several women employees. Medha, as single parent who wishes to separate from her wimp of a husband, is portrayed with no apologies or negative shades. Her husband isn’t even shown.
That’s not to say that Cold Case is unique in any way. It is pretty much the same old, same old. And the plot is full of unconvincing bits. Why would a busy, single mum in the middle of a messy divorce want to continue living in a haunted house?
When Medha and her daughter’s bedroom gets flooded, why doesn’t she check for leaking faucets or broken water pipes? Her maid seems more eager to investigate than her.
Why does a child’s voice keep playing up every time the paranormality occurs?
Why are there so many incredible coincidences?
The performances too are just about average - nothing sterling yet nothing bad. Aditi is competent, but sometimes deadpan. At times her portrayal of Medha appears so unconcerned about the huge threat looming over her daughter, even though as the audience, we feel a protective instinct rise. Mala Parvathy who plays her mom is adequately warm.
The child actor who plays her daughter brings in some smiles and their interactions brighten up an otherwise sterile world. Suchitra Pillai as the eccentric Zara, with a matador like man Friday by her side, has the right creepy vibe (but her seance scene is just comical). Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli does okay in an important role as Advocate Haritha.
Cold Case uses a bit of gimmickry every so often, not unusual in this genre. Take the title for example. Less to do with the police term and more to do with the fridge. Or the eerie stereotypical occult expert tropes. And the hint at the end of a sequel.
Cold Case, a paranormal thriller meets police procedural, is a better-than-many watch but definitely not one of the best. It lacks oomph but makes up for it with some earnestness. It’s a ‘yes, but…’ sort of movie. Yes, it keeps you watching, but the climax leaves you dissatisfied. Yes, it is visually interesting but seems a bit too plastic in a real world. Yes, many believable performances but… you get the drift.
So, Cold Case is watchable, just have reasonably low expectations from it.
(Sangita Nambiar is a writer, active theatre person and deep-sea diving enthusiast. Connect with her on Twitter at @Sanginamby)
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