EK VILLAIN RETURNS (2022)

John Abraham in a still
  • Release Date: 29/07/2022
  • Cast: John Abraham, Disha Patani, Tara Sutaria, Arjun Kapoor, JD Chakravarthi
  • Director: Mohit Suri

An engaging slasher/erotic thriller is marred by terrible performances and lacklustre writing

— Ambar Chatterjee

Ek Villain Returns is called so for no other reason but to cash in on the success of the 2014 film directed by Mohit Suri and featuring Riteish Deshmukh in one of his best performances to date. The latest installment has a completely different cast and a new story, but it also has something to do with a normal man turning into a serial killer for things that are done to him by a woman. While in the 2014 film, it was a nagging and abusive wife who pushed Riteish’s character over the edge, it is an eccentric and feisty girlfriend that triggers the stakes of a simple man and turns him into a marauding killer. 

While in both the cases, the justifications given for a man turning into a serial killer are laughably inadequate, Mohit Suri’s execution of the story and the kind of performances that he was able to extract from both Riteish and the man in question here adds some credibility to the narrative and makes it a film that will definitely appeal to the ones who have been or feel have been wronged by “wrong women”. This is the kind of film that will justify Salman Khan’s immortal and cringe line from Kick, “Dil mein ata hoon, samajh mein nahi” (I can be deciphered BY the heart but will remain elusive to logic).

Apart from Hamari Adhuri Kahani and Half Girlfriend, I have always had a good time with Mohit Suri films. They are entertaining if not anything else and Suri is one director who has remade Hollywood and Korean films with conviction and at least tried to Indianize them by infusing them with emotions and reasons that are specific to India. This was exactly the case with Ek Villain which was a remake of the sensational Korean revenge drama, I Saw The Devil. With Ek Villain Returns, he tries to create a film that is supposed to keep you guessing until the very end and he nearly succeeds in pulling off just that. One has to agree that the story is the biggest hero here and if this film had better performances, and a little more logic and reason backing its writing, it might even have been a far better film. 

Mohit Suri uses John Abraham’s hulking presence and one-dimensional performance to his advantage here. John’s character is someone who is so much in awe of the girl that he has fallen in love with that in her presence he speaks little and is busy enjoying the bliss that her mere presence in his life brings him. This helps John’s case immensely as he can look fixedly at her without any expressions and still be on the same page with the character. As things get from bad to worse for him, he has to portray rage and uncontrollable anger. 

Disha Patani in a poster of the film

These are two things that come naturally to John, and his monstrous physic complements his expression of it. Thus, he is able to sell these moments with clinical ease and this, in turn, elevates his performance to a level that impacts the viewers. As the story progresses, the viewers are bound to root for his character no matter how much in doubt they are of his action. This is also because he is an embodiment of a character that is commonplace in Indian society and many of the viewers will find a voice to their past pain and suffering through this character. John has tried his best to breathe life into the character and that shows in his performance.

Disha Patani looks and behaves in a manner that feels befitting of a character that would beguile a simple man and make him do her bidding. She has the kind of face and alluring presence that would drive a man crazy for her and turn him into a monster when he is rejected. Her performance may not be the best and she still has a long way to go in terms of emoting and expressing a range of dramatic shifts, but her act here was enough to convince me of the authenticity of the character. It must also be noted that her character in the film is also not the best written and that also leads to some hiccups. Thankfully, she is able to keep the audience transfixed by her act. While there is an evident lack of chemistry between her and John, I felt that it was actually a good thing for the film since the two characters were doomed in each other’s company anyway.

Arjun Kapoor is again the mood spoiler here. He has no range at all and maintains the same expression throughout. This was the worst thing possible for his character because the character needed range. He had to be insane, charming, romantic, outrageous, and a whole lot of other things. The way Arjun is also doesn’t invoke any genuine regard for his character and this proves to be the biggest letdown of the film. There is this strange condescending look and feel about every character that this man portrays that looks in the eyes of the viewer and insults them by calling him out for their stupidity for having paid to watch him act. This has been a recurring problem for me with all of Kapoor’s performances of late and there is no getting away from it. Thus, he was the biggest problem and villain for me in this film. 

Tara Sutaria isn’t getting any better. With every subsequent film, she is getting so irritating, loud, and annoying that I am beginning to think that she might someday give Arjun Kapoor a run for his money for being the most annoying thing that calls itself an actor. There is no chemistry between the two here. There is no feel for the character that she is playing. Most importantly, the character is written so poorly that even if she acted well, it was nearly impossible to save the character. The dialogues attributed to her character are atrocious and when she mouths them in her trademark irritating style, they just get worse. Tara’s character was doomed to be a failure and she contributes her bit into making it absolutely terrifying. 

John Abraham in a poster of the film

Sans one action sequence involving John Abraham destroying a group of thieves inside a car, the action sequences of the film are pedestrian. The excessive and visible use of CGI also doesn’t help the matter. It was a pain for me to see Arjun Kapoor stand up against the menacing John Abraham and hold his ground. If it was someone like Aditya Roy Kapoor, the sequence might have still held ground but with Arjun Kapoor matching John punch for punch, the action sequences fizzle out even with John putting in his heart and soul into them and trying his best to infuse some genuine emotions into them.

The music has always been a highlight of Mohit Suri films, and he carries forward the same tradition here. Atleast two songs here are beautiful and appeal to your senses. However, it must be added that this album is nothing in comparison to the sensational and heartfelt melodies of Ek Villain (2014). 

I cannot say that I didn’t have an enjoyable time with this film. I knew what to expect and the film gave me exactly that. I must admit that this could have been a good slasher film if Arjun and Tara Sutaria were replaced by Aditya Roy Kapoor and Alia Bhatt. The story needed a few rewrites, and the reason and logic should have been strengthened. The action too could have been better and instead of relying on the CGI, real and brutal hand-to-hand combat would have been a far better bet. You can watch this film but go in with zero expectations. 

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
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