'LIE', starring Nithiin and Arjun as hero and villain, respectively, hits the screens this Friday. Here is our review.
Sathyam (Nithiin) is the good-for-nothing son of a widowed mother. He is not only unmarried but also supposedly fantasizes marrying an American girl.
At National Investigation Agency, a frustrated officer (played by Ravi Kishan) is desperate to nab an elusive villain, Padmanabham (Action King Arjun), who has escaped the long arm of the law for 19 years and who is now suspected to be residing in the US.
By a quirk of fate, Sathyam, along with a stranger (Megha Akash), ends up in Las Vegas, where Ravi Kishan has drafted a sharp officer (played by yesteryear hero Sriram) to go discover Padmanabham's hideout.
All along, Padmanabham tries to go after the team which is trying to trace him, only to end up with Sathyam. But here comes a twist.
The rest of the film is about how Sathyam is related to the entire operation floated to crack Padmanabham, and how the hero-villain duo and other characters race against time.
In so far as it throws up a very smart and suave villain, 'LIE' is in the same space as 'Dhruva'. In the age of irrational villainy that borders on the parody, a villain with brains is as welcome as a heroine with brains.
Director Hanu Raghavapudi conceives an 'Enemy' who is one step ahead of the hero, who in turn is under the presumption that the game is in his control. Somewhere in the second half, when Arjun dons two disguises to con Sathyam, you have the film's defining moment.
Such an adversary has to glorify the bad, especially money. And he does it through this line: 'They say money can do 99 out of 100 things in the world. But if you try hard, it can do all the 100 things'. Such a lowly foe is pitted against a hardened hero whose sole "agenda" is to eliminate him, and not settle for anything less just because his Jaanu (the 'Love' part, represented by Megha Akash) might get killed.
In the second half, edge-of-the-seat moments are narrated with a dash of humour. The narration is typically racy in these portions. Sathyam has got luck on his side with respect to his love affair with Jaanu, but least does he realize that things are not what they seem when Padmanabham is at it.
Even the anti-climax is largely momentous. But where the narration falls apart is in the climax.
In an attempt to present a uber-cool narration, Hanu forgets to take care of the character arcs. Padmanabham's character arc drops miserably here. As a result, all that you get is some nimble action in the backdrop of flights and nothing more. Sathyam's character arc too nosedives in this episode.
Having presented an interval bang that elevates heroism to a new high, the climax should have been nail-biting. In the end, the hitherto high-brow Padmanabham enters the fray unprepared.
The romantic-comedy track comes with its share of cliches. Debutant Megha Akash is amateurish.
Nithiin is more reckless than intense, by and large. That was the idea, but when he is emotional, he is more convincing. In the canvas of a crime thriller, the young actor holds his ground. Arjun's is easily one of the best negative characters written in a long time. He delivers a mind-blowing performance, especially in two disguises (watch on the screen). Sriram is talented and one wants to see more and more of him in Telugu cinema. Nasser is very good, while Ravi Kishan is earnest. Comedian Madhu Nandan as a victim of Nithiin's friendship passes muster.
Mani Sharma's songs are not entirely new-sounding. It's the background score that is high-end. Yuvraj's cinematography is a major asset. The exotic locations in the US have been brilliantly captured.
Verdict: 'LIE' is a stylized crime thriller with a sharp protagonist and a thinking antagonist. Neat performances and first-rate technical values help. On the other hand, a cliched rom-com track and a weak climax take the zing out.