Streetlights Malayalam Movie
A familiar narrative gets a superstar treatment in Streetlights. Mammootty plays yet another cop; arrogant, righteous and resilient. The stakes are not high and the characters don't take themselves too seriously. Worse still, by the halfway mark, we know where the story is headed crystal-clear. What opens as a promising hyperlink film sheds potential novelty for fan service and convenience.
In his directorial debut, Shamdat Sainudeen sets up his multiple sub-plots with a fair degree of mystique and restraint. The multi-character narrative also convinces you that it is not overly feeding off of its headlining star. It instead spends plenty of time with the characters at the wrong end of the law, played by Dharmajan Bolgatty, Hareesh Perumanna and Stunt Silva. There is even an entertaining rom-com track between Soubin Shahir and Lijo Mol Jose, which lightens up the restlessness of the cat-and-mouse action. But, what spoils the fun is the complete lack of suspense and tying up of loose ends without the right intent. Mammootty himself is affected by the muddled vision, which wants his character to stay true to the grounded drama but use his star power lavishly as Plan B. He is made to go lavish on the 'masala' moments against demand, as if the film planted them specifically to mask its self-doubt as an entertainer.
Shamdat still directs his lead actor with great care and devotion. Mammootty, even in a role where his screen-time is limited and star value somewhat downplayed, owns the screen simply by showing up. There is a special attention to how flawlessly the star and his character should appear, behave and speak on screen. So, when Mammootty's James ignites a bloody shootout on Tamil soil in the post-intermission scene, it suddenly turns into some of the best 'mass' moments the actor has been part of lately, thanks to the director's determination to add something spontaneous like that into the main story on top of the physicality that Mammootty effortlessly pulls off at this stage in his career. That is the high-point of Streetlights, whose meandering drama buries all the sporadic excitement in its ironic deadweight.
For a mid-budget film and a first-time director, Streetlights may have done a half-decent job of elevating its written material to a cinematic level, with the music from Neha Nair and Adarsh Abraham, Hareesh's comic relief and an engrossing first act being the standouts. But, it will be noted more for its squandered potential and Mammootty's oddly distanced presence in its scheme of things.