The Priest (2021) | Malayalam
A Malayali Christian priest who doubles up as a talented detective is an intriguing starting point for a thriller. Like many famous fictional sleuths before him, Fr Carmen Benedict (Mammootty) does not mind the police taking the credit for mysteries he solves, as a result of which they are happy to welcome him into their investigations.
When a case of multiple suicides within one family is resolved in The Priest and leads to another probe in far eerier circumstances, we realise that there is more to Fr Benedict than his fascination for crime. Both whodunnits offer some genuine suspense, and the second one is at places definitely scary, but as with too many Mammootty films, the pointed effort to be cool and to emphasise the megastar’s coolth are this one’s Achilles heel too.
There have been worse. The Priest is not godawfully boring like the Mammukka-Huma Qureshi starrer White, nor is it offensive like The Great Father. Writer-director Jofin T Chacko and his co-writers have packed enough elements into their film to make it moderately entertaining. It would have been far more engaging though without the needless styling of the leading man (even as a padre, Mammukka has got to be turned out like a dude!), those oddly written English lines that are made worse by his grandiose delivery, and the contrivances tossed around to deceive the audience.
Why on earth would a priest-cum-private-eye – or anyone for that matter – follow a little girl around with the air of a stalker, when it is obvious to the viewer that she is just a person of interest for him in an ongoing investigation? It is as if he is making an effort to appear suspicious to her teacher Jessie (Nikhila Vimal). To what end? That girl is a Class 6 student called Ameya, played by child actor Monica. The schoolyard scenes involving her and Fr Benedict are poorly conceived and just plain weird.
Mammootty enunciates run-of-the-mill lines, especially English lines, as if he is dispensing great wisdom. When a policeman asks Fr Benedict if a particular individual can be traced, the latter replies, “We can and we must” in a tone so grave that it feels as if a crucial revelation has just been made. As for the Kerala Police, they seem to require instructions from Fr Benedict for even basic steps in their sleuthing.
Hyperbole is The Priest’s most grating quality. Manju Warrier’s character, a schoolteacher called Susan Cherian, has a deep love for her sister who she has brought up single-handedly. Yet what the film portrays as mere love is an abnormal obsession that translates into jealousy towards that sibling’s friends, especially her boyfriend.
Susan’s life-long relationship with her younger sister and Jessie’s blossoming bond with Ameya are both established in a clichéd fashion through a song each.
Nikhila and Venkitesh VP who plays Jessie’s fiancé make the most of the situation and deliver performances that are impressive considering the flaws they must contend with. Monica is spooky as heck in some scenes. In a film that seems to demand overacting from her, Warrier in a supporting role still extracts moments that remind us why she is not just a superstar but also an actor.
But the spotlight in The Priest is primarily on Mammootty and he remains somewhat OTT throughout – not The-Great-Father-grade insufferable OTT, thankfully, but enough to constantly take the focus away from a reasonably interesting plot and keep it fixed on him instead.
Regular Mammootty, the artiste who is capable of being natural and brilliant on a good day, might actually have elevated the flawed story and the storytelling. What we get instead in The Priest is Megastar Mammootty and therefore, just passable entertainment.
The Priest ( 2021 ) |Malayalam
The Priest is a 2021 Indian Malayalam-language horror mystery film directed by debutant Jofin T. Chacko,which marks the first collaboration of Mammootty and Manju Warrier in their career. Produced jointly by B. Unnikrishnan and Anto Joseph, the film features original score and soundtrack composed and produced by Rahul Raj. The film was scheduled to release on 31 July 2020 on the occasion of Eid Al Adha, but production was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in India. The film released on March 11, 2021 to generally positive reviews with the performances and background score garnering unanimous praise.
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