Tag: Heist Films

Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal

As The Swivel Chair Spins #5

Let me be honest, I underestimated what Kannum Kannum Kolaiyadhitaal was going to be. The first five minutes is just Dulquer Salman driving a car which says DQ on its license plate, there is also mention of his Kerala female fandom (yaawn), there was the genuinely irritating Vijay TV sidekick quota, it confirmed my fears that this was a generation film i.e not for me. 

I sat through nevertheless and things got interesting. 

After a song (or two, sorry didn’t notice) and usual love interlude, we really come to know what our heroes are up to: they are small cons who utilize the gaps in the ecommerce system to profit and they are of course not bound by any morals. But with them is that small niggling thought at the back  that they would be caught. 

If they have shown a thief, they will show police also- enter Gautham Menon as DCP Pratap Chakravarti (DCP PC?), how he will catch these small time crooks is the rest of the story. 

Or so I thought. 

Kannum Kannum Kollayadithal is that kind of movie that stacks up a bunch of carpets and pulls it one by one from under my feet. 

But thankfully I was seated.  

KKK is a very competent investigation thriller, the policemen use logic to get from one clue to another, it is also a competent heist film- be it in the objective, team assembly, planning and showing things when they don’t go according to plan. 

Lessons from the screenplay has a great video comparing two mission impossible films and how they execute their best heists, I would say KKK too has some elements of them in it and kudos for getting elemental genres right, it’s rare in a tamil film. 

But KKK is one of those rare things which try to show that they are about something, but is about something else and succeed in both- I am not getting into the morals portrayed but in a way a concept is presented. 

If you have not seen Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal then you should stop reading after this sentence. <SPOILERS> 

<SPOILERS, there is no other way to explain without going into spoilers sorry>

The concept of no one is a yogiyan (sorry couldn’t find an immediate english equivalent) is worked into the story and comes full circle, everybody is in some way a criminal and in some way there is no big or small crime- the magnitude of that doesn’t matter. 

But where the move falters is when it tries to become a hero and co winning just because they are hero and heroine types, but why, anyone could have won. It also falls into the Petta trap of suddenly making solid characters look weak so that the hero can win. 

I can disagree with the concept and still like the film. So in a film full of bad guys, does the hero heroine looking types win just because they are hero heroine types? 

Maybe DCP Pratap might ultimately catch up with them in the end? Maybe their money will dry out in Thailand and they will fully realize the folly in their lives? Maybe some natural tragedy will befall them. 

I closed the TV thinking, yeah they are happy for now, but not for long.Just like that final shot in the Graduate. Things happen to people. That’s just my coded narrative watching habits. 

In Moondru Deivangal, one of the finest Tamil movies ever made; Sivaji-Muthuraman-Nagesh play thieves who are out of jail and trying to con a very simple retailer, the goodness of their family ultimately changes the trio- but still they use their history tricks to protect this simpleton and ultimately go back to prison. 

Bad guys winning is fine, but for me it is more rewarding when they end up turning into good people, it’s a movie, it gives closure, it gives purpose for them to have been crooked in the first place. 

But closure as they say

But Dada Mirasi did it first

It is unfair to compare two movies, even if they are similar, there are other movies in which the relatively good-bad guys win like for example the Ocean’s trilogy which is a lot more than heist films, but it clearly establishes the meanest of the mean, the annoyerest among the annoyers.

Meanwhile in KKK, even GVM is smart, the drug dealer is smart and powerful but the guys getting away with it are just because they are like hero and heroine of this generation. That didn’t sit well. No it didn’t and pulling Oceans and Moondru Deivangal into this was a bad idea. 

Should have never done that. All I wanted to say is that you have introduced a concept very well- whatever be the morals, very convincingly but not going the full distance. Pch.

Still a very engaging watch.

Let’s talk about : The Ocean’s Trilogy

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While we are on the topic of greatest movies ever made, let’s talk about the Ocean’s trilogy.

Steven Soderbergh is unpredictable, he retired from movie making some four years ago and then came back to make Logan Lucky, many called it an inversion of his Ocean’s trilogy; functional and without any style. The whole style vs substance would put the Ocean’s trilogy in bad light, but in reality style is the substance in these films.

Soderbergh himself has taken various positions on the Oceans franchise, from being appreciative to being ‘I don’t really care if you don’t like it’; but he has admitted that a lot of work went into the trilogy and that is why it is interesting (and great). A carefully constructed ode to old hollywood but still very modern and yet entertaining cinema.

Full disclosure: the Ocean’s trilogy for me is up there (obviously with LOTR) in terms of breaking up characters and their tales into three parts. The Lord of the Rings also had the cushion of a literary work and generations of readers who are familiar with the story.

Breaking down the Ocean’s trilogy; 11 sets up Ocean and his men brilliantly and 13 perfectly completes the story. Twelve falls short because it is unlike 11 or 13, but definitely the most interesting.

Soderbergh’s source material was a 1960 film directed by Moldovian-American director Lewis Milestone*; the original Ocean’s 11 headlined by Frank Sinatra and  Dean Martin, a film that currently holds only 48% weight on critic aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. That the remake has a score of 82%, that’s where I stop with the facts.

Even as a choice this seems quite odd for a remake. Soderbergh is like that, he professes that many directors too are like him: attracted to not so greater works of great filmmakers. Positively, this could be seen as learning from other’s mistakes but realistically it is about ignoring what ‘most people’ have agreed upon.

Great work usually comes from not-so great sources

Having seen the 1960 film, memorable is not something I would associate with it; but I can take a guess, it was the probably playful tone and actors bouncing off each other that attracted Soderbergh. He makes the source material his own and we get with three well directed classic films on professionalism and camaraderie.

Show, but don’t show-off

Like most films in this genre where we are indeed cheering for the bad guys, there is a sense of casual code; the team may seem like an assembly of rag-tag crooks but really they are bound together by their professionalism and dislike for vanity. Yes vanity.

Let’s look at the antagonist in the three films

  • Villain 1-Ocean’s 11: Terry Benedict: owner of 3 of the biggest casinos and suitably self-obsessed
  • Villain 2-Ocean’s 12: The Night Fox: a self congratulatory European gentleman thief
  • Villain 3-Ocean’s 13: Willy Bank: megalomaniac, obsessed with building the best hotel on the strip

If there had been an Ocean’s 14, then it is quite possible that the rat-pack would have taken on Tony Stark (yawn) or Donald Trump(?). The only difference between the good guys and the bad guys is “you can be be cool by not saying so”.

Also take into account that the villains have to be over the top, so that the thievery can be normalized but there is always an undercurrent of Ocean and co having a personal stake in the happenings. It is not about the money, but about the job.

It is always about the job

Coming back to professionalism: to sum up, the three films are about a bunch of guys who really really(emphasis mine) love their job and are very good at it, ready to accept unreasonable challenges but don’t want to be seen as very serious about it. It’s part of their act.

Daniel Ocean claims to look at the angles of buildings even when he is not working, Linus spends the prize of the first movie in improving his ‘skills’, Rusty tries running a hotel but feels he is not good at anything else.

The dialogue is a dictionary on skill development, tactics(looky loo with a bundle of joy!) and planning , everyone working towards doing a better con than before. Like Basher puts it ” we don’t do the same gag twice“. Optimization.

Much has been written about work and fun, as though they are too separate things; and coming from a society where the skills you have is almost always not the one which would be called to action at work, I am able to relate to this differentiation. Meaning work is the complete opposite of fun. Maybe that’s why Ocean’s sticks with me, it is about how with the right skills at the right place, any con is doable; I mean any goal is achievable.

Soderbergh could have just made a series of films about a bunch of accountants and still he would have made it in interesting. Ocean’s for me in many ways is about the triumph of work and not without the help of any hack productivity handbook.  A very American thing, but countries are really built by hard working passionate men (and women), who don’t usually get their due.

It is also about the gang

Already covered is their common dislike to individual success, Ocean despite being a master thief doesn’t work alone, the loot is equally shared even if everybody’s skills are not completely utilized.

Two of the three movies happen just to set things right for their mentor Reuben, and all the time they spend together is playful and devoid of any real conflict; the spirit of friendship pervades all through, just like friends having a good time in real life.

But more importantly, it all comes together very well

And finally a listicle!

If you have never watched the Ocean’s trilogy, here’s what you should expect.

  • Addictive. Re-watchable. Laugh-out-loud funny.
  • Sweeping the casino carpet type cinematography.
  • A soundtrack that stays with you for life.
  • Blow-your-cinephile-mind team up.
  • Rusty and Danny saying so much by not saying a word.
  • The twins saying so much but actually saying nothing.
  • The Amazing Yen!
  • Bruce Willis as himself.
  • And introducing  Tess as Julia Roberts! (the whole Looky Loo sequence)
  • Vincent Cassel -laser dance.
  • Viva La Revolucion!
  • Al Pacino ordering a Samsung phone
  • Everybody knowing Mandarin (no language imposition, they know it on the job)
  • “They have enough armed personnel to occupy Paris”
  • George Clooney saying “yeah”
  • The fountains swaying to Debussy’s Claire De Lune

The general coolness of it all(without being cool, sorry Quentin). I mean what is not to like?

Among the greatest Hollywood films, indeed.