Synopsis: Sethupathi, an inspector, investigates the murder of a cop and finds that Vaathiyar, a big shot, is responsible for the killing. He arrests Vaathiyar, but an unfortunate incident that has a connection to the case he is investigating, puts his career in jeopardy.
Review: A couple of Fridays ago, we had Vetri Maaran's Visaaranai, a hard-hitting film that was a damning one for the police force as it shined a light on the brutality that those with power unleash upon the defenseless. For them, Sethupathi should feel like a God-sent PR bonanza from Kollywood — even if that is entirely incidental — that acts to restore the public's faith in the force. Right from the title credits, which acts as homage to the men in khakhi (just like how the end credits of Thuppakki paid tribute to our army jawans), the film keeps celebrating cops.
And it also brings back the masala movie cop, a character whose every action we are meant to cheer. Sethupathi (Vijay Sethupathi), an inspector about to be promoted as an assistant commissioner, is tenacious and fearless. A cop is murdered in a place that is under his jurisdiction and so he starts investigating the case. He finds out that the local big shot, Vaathiyar is connected to this killing and goes after him. He even arrests Vaathiyar (Vela Ramamurthy, who is as terrific in this bad guy role as he was as the kind-hearted patriarch in Paayum Puli), but an unforeseen accident involving a gun and a student, puts his career in jeopardy. However, Sethupathi soon realises that this accident has a connection to the case involving the dead cop. Now, he has to play a cat-and-mouse game with Vaathiyar while trying to hold on to his job.
Sethupathi is a Vijay Sethupathi show all the way. This is his first action hero role, and the actor turns on his star wattage to the maximum. Not since Vikram in Saamy has an actor effortlessly displayed that casual arrogance that is needed for a masala movie cop. Like Saamy, Sethupathi is a mix of brains and brawn, someone who can make gangsters tremble by just appearing before them and outthink his foes. Arunkumar shrewdly exploits this to give us one whistle-worthy moment after another. Two scenes, particularly, stand out. One, where he hides his face with a scarf to attack the villain's henchmen, after getting into trouble in an earlier scene when due to a video. In the other one, he relays instructions over phone to his wife (Ramya Nambeesan) and son and protects them from the goons who have broken into their house.
The director, who made the sweet-natured Pannaiyarum Padminiyum, goes all out to venerate his hero, and there are times when we begin to think if this unconcealed commercial approach is a response to the box office underperformance of his debut film. He certainly seems to have learnt a lesson from that on one account. The languid storytelling of the former is here replaced with a narration that is spry. And, thanks to his editor Sreekar Prasad and composer Nivas Prasanna's spunky score, he manages to achieve this without resorting to gimmicks like ramped up or hyper-edited shots.
If there is a hitch, it is the scenes that are set in Sethupathi's home. They are clearly meant to be fillers between the action scenes, and while the happy nuclear family sub-plot (with cute kids and marital romance) acts a feel-good counterpoint, the scenes become repetitive after a point. The other problem is that while the villain is formidable enough, his henchmen never come across as people who can pose a serious threat to Sethupathi. But, to Arunkumar's credit, there is hardly any lull in the film for us to start thinking about such niggles, and we just go along on this entertaining ride.