Cars storm through the long roads in wild chases, deals are made in the sinister rooftops of towering buildings- high above the eye-level and knowledge of the world, guns thunder incessantly while bullets and marijuana leaves rain down in a delirious landscape smeared with red in what plays out as the curious prelude song of Mafia, chronicling the lure and terror of drugs and the men who wield it, flourishing in the money and power these narcotics bring them. The intriguing and stylistic song flaunts its rich psychedelic flavour leading us to a hunt, to a lurid video game which soon gets messy despite its clean writing- its mess lying in its clichés, disconnect and deceit.
A film playing out as an interesting sort of video game, especially when it is a thriller drama might allow it to exercise the exploits of plot points and their progression, yet soon they set the viewer at a distance in their path of following a certain pattern and as soon as the question of who is playing this game kicks in for the thrill in the game stems immediately from the intense level of involvement and individual action. Tapping into this close engrossment, the stunner 1917 moved in long single shots, quite triumphantly placing the viewer in the scape of the film and passing on to him, the tension and resolve of the mission to be completed while it retained with glory the paradigm of a taut video game. Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Kaidhi too exists within this model yet its certain fresh embellishments dismiss the inevitable disconnect which however surfaces as a major object of tedium in the second watch.
Mafia is brazen in its existence in the video game universe, commencing from the nature of the initial song, in the step by step guide we receive in tracking the plot and its central conflicts with clearly laid down Stage 1, 2 and 3, in its vaguely defined characters identified solely with the mission they are faced with, in its strong colours of battling red and green pouring over the antagonist’s abode, in its references to the animalistic tendencies of its people, giving each of them deadly code names, each to be tackled and vanquished in the varied mounting levels of the game and this is its Chapter1, more precisely Level-1.
With Arun Vijay in striking style as Aryan, the determined cop- the hunter here, his resolve reflected in the rigidity of his eyes, we enter the zone of the tale wondering if it is an action packed whodunit only to realise quite soon that it is not as the film hails the fox in its jungle with the slow steps of Diwakar Kumaran (rendered by Prasanna with a fine ironic charm and underlying devotion to a larger operating force) stepping out his Land Rover Discovery car, revealing to us who the enemy is. This intro unfolding in the sly night, though not one of mass, becomes a fine echo to the initial scene of Aryan, the camera tracing their presence and entrance into the film with their footsteps as the two brace themselves to break into houses and the first gesture of both Aryan and Diwakar is a warm seeming Vanakkam, taking shape as a warning sign. Albeit this not evolving into anything significant in the major course of the tale, it is partly by design provided how close and not Aryan is to Diwakar.
Does the film pick up as a procedural then? I should say no for the film isn’t interested to be either. Following cliché driven sequences, bland drama, slow-motion action of bullets escaping guns, shattering glasses to a thousand shards, the confrontation that is to evoke, ‘Wow, Finally!’ riveting us as in the amused words of Diwakar instead turns passive as the unimpressed dully uttered, ‘Hm, Finally…’ of the bemused Aryan.
Everything and everyone exist at a one-dimensional level in Mafia Chapter 1, this despite being a deceit by design doesn’t stir or hold up the intrigue, offering its soaring climactic reveal not as a bomb of amazement, as something to look forward to but as a simple balm of heal, curing the mild burn, promising something better, something more wholesome.
There might be a lot of potent cocaine and fiery guns in Mafia yet it neither gets trippy nor blazing as the film with its lean soul emerges sturdy only as an elaborate set up, a designed deceit for the upcoming hunt which we might hope will offer the high and blaze Mafia lacks.