Synopsis: An extortion gang that murders businessmen kills a policeman working on the case. ACP Jayaseelan exterminates the gang by way of unofficial encounters, but the murders continue. What the cop doesn't realise is that the brain behind the crimes is lurking close to home.
Review: As he showed with Naan Mahaan Alla and Pandiya Naadu, Suseenthiran has a flair for giving us engaging action films that are well within the commercial format and still feel fresh in terms of presentation. Paayum Puli lacks the tautness of Pandiya Naadu, but packs in enough thrills to keep us glued to our seats. Cop films in Tamil cinema generally have no qualms about justifying encounters, turning a blind eye to human rights, and this one, too, is no exception (here, we have the hero saying one can get away with murdering anyone but not a cop!). The film — despite Suseenthiran denials — seems to be loosely inspired from the real-life murder of sub-inspector T Alwin Sudhan in 2012. Or, at least, he uses the incident as a jumping-off point for the film's plot.
Albert (Harish Uthaman), an idealistic, young cop is murdered for shooting dead the brother of Bhavani, whose gang is behind a series of extortion crimes. His heartbroken parents commit suicide and the other cops decide that they will avenge Albert's death by exterminating Bhavani's entire gang through unofficial encounters. ACP Jayaseelan (Vishal) goes undercover to root out these gangsters. He succeeds in his mission but the crimes continue. And the brain behind the whole thing is lurking close to home!
As in last week's release, Thani Oruvan, Paayum Puli, too, involves a cat-and-mouse game between the protagonist and the antagonist but the trouble with this film is that the actual plot is never allowed to move ahead in full steam as the action keeps making way for romance (a perfunctory, cliched one where the heroine, Kajal Aggarwal, is reduced to a cutesy creature — a muyalkutty, as a song puts it) and comedy (a running gag on Soori getting beaten up by his wife), and the momentum breaks often, especially in the first half. There seems to be a bit of overconfidence (or, is it lack of confidence?) on the part of the director in the way these portions unfold — a scene involving the murders, followed by comedy followed by romance and a bit of family sentiment. We even get an item number! Imman's songs, despite being catchy and energetic, are bathroom breaks as they don't fit in with the plot.
It is only in the second half that we finally get to see the film that the premise promised. As Jayaseelan and his mysterious adversary (whose identity is revealed a little too early to the audience) make their moves, we get some gripping scenes that are as effective as those in Pandiya Naadu — tense moments where the identity of the villain could be revealed any second, a shootout in the dead of the night, a shocking murder right inside the police station in the hero's presence, father-son emotional drama, the smartness the hero displays in discovering the villain's identity. But the climax is a bit of a let down as Suseenthiran trades a punch-in-the-gut emotional moment for a routine fisticuff.
There is a touch of Walter Vetrivel in Paayum Puli, another film that was built around a no-nonsense cop, a cold-hearted brother, a Gandhian figure and a crime wave. What's interesting about this film is that the antagonist comes across as a tragic figure (despite his monstrous deeds) for whom we even feel a tinge of sympathise. He is burdened by his family's legacy, but has been corrupted — and betrayed — by politics to such an extent that it is "arasiyal veri" that has taken over him. And we sense right away that he is doomed as someone close to him enters the picture every now and then to mess up his carefully laid-out plans. The numerous God's eye view shots in the film are perhaps symbolic of this — the man from above is watching his actions and checkmating him constantly, and taunting him, 'So you think you can get away with this?' And the casting of Samuthirakani is just perfect (even the other roles are impeccably cast and Vela Ramamoorthy as a father let down and repulsed by his son's deeds is excellent). The actor projects a sense of righteousness in most of his characters and Suseenthiran gives a nice twist to this aspect of him — an ambitious man who lives in the hope that he can justify his crimes by doing good when comes to power.