Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Double Barrel sounds like a Guy Ritchie flick with a nosily similar plot (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), starts off with a Tarantino-styled stunning prologue where a woman even calls her husband ‘honey’ in its bizarre opening frame reminiscent of the glorious ‘honey bunny’ in the prologue of Pulp Fiction, and runs ahead with a visual narrative that can be (maybe) alluded to a Wes Anderson patented style. But then again, Double Barrel runs on its own terms, has its own sense of the plot—in both its brilliance and misgivings—and is the first of its kind in Malayalam cinema and even Indian cinema.
This isn’t a movie where a normative storyline takes shape. It’s a botched theft story, a goofed up goon saga where the usual ‘hero image’ is bargained for a bunch of actors. And they do a top notch job at looking foolish without looking awkward. It is retro meets new age satire, but no, this isn’t a hep movie, it’s a weird movie, and therein lies the genius of direction—a brought-on amateurish noir frame that makes it look like the spoof of a Marvel Comics story.
There’s Pancho (Prithviraj) and Vinci (Indrajith), small time crooks in Goa, who get mixed up with the big guns on the run for a pair of diamonds. The diamond story runs parallel to the Majnu (Arya), Diesel (Chemban Vinod) and Laila (an unrecognisable Swathi Reddy) account, where there is hallucination in the making—a wonder drug that weaves an unlikely romance. This warped story is funny in concept and amusing, although this can’t be said for everyone.
There is a third set comprising Anil Murali, Sabumon Abdusamad and Rachana Narayanankutty, who get involved as well. The three sets interconnect in odd ways, and are supposed to weave themselves into the narrative. They do, in odd ways, but what is given a miss in the whole scenario is a little more of ha-ha. It’s strangely comical, yes. It could have sharpened its wit and brought in a less-sketchy-more-absorbing plot.
The dressed up sets, textured ambience, engagingly exotic backdrops, all set along with the perfect arrangement of the murky elements—shady bistros, eerie lodges, guns steering the course of action—it’s chic in its manner yet dramatic in execution, where a bunch of Russians and Mexicans talk in easy Malayalam (as forewarned by the director) and how the BGM plays out songs from Malayalam to Tamil taking it all the way to Russian and Mexican.
Outstanding cinematography, courtesy Abhinandan Ramanujam, is the strong point of the movie, where split second action shots composed in mellow lights and deliberate shadows, add depth to the frames. The music and BGM by Prashant Pillai works great with the frames.
The actors steal the show at the end of the day, be it Prithvi and Indrajith with their clumsy bits, Isha Shervani with her stunning litheness, Swathi Reddy with her girlie charm, Vijay Babu with his inimitable psycho-goon make-up, Rachana Narayanankutty at her inflammable best, or Sherrin Varghese as Tarkov, a Russian Czar-like Goth figure.
The one question that lingers is, how did Lijo Jose Pellissery get his idea across to the actors? It’s as such a brave sequence of events to even imagine, but to actually dare to put that on celluloid with scores of actors brandishing their talent shows the potent creativity among the generation’s artistes.
As for the audience, very few are going to be pleased. Double Barrel is double jeopardy if you take it for a rib-tickling funny movie. For a movie enthusiast though, this could mean the beginning of something new in the industry. So, double cheers, Pellissery team, you dared.