Lucifer, an intriguing political power struggle between ‘evil and lesser evil’, is a primer on how to make a good action masala movie.
Lucifer kicks off with the death of chief minister PK Ramdas, leading to a political Game of Thrones with potential contenders jostling for succession. When Ramdas’ son-in-law Bobby, played by a suave Vivek Oberoi, tries to take advantage of the ensuing power vacuum, there is only one man standing in his way – Stephen Nedumpally/Lucifer (Mohanlal). The first half is an intriguing political drama with well fleshed-out characters, pursuing agendas of their own. The second half, while being mostly fanservice, works because Prithviraj, who makes his directorial debut after 17 years of acting, doesn’t play to the gallery from the opening credits, and takes his time in setting up his chess pieces.
Much like Petta, which was a tribute to Rajini, Lucifer is a tribute to the Malayali superstar from Prithvi, a self-confessed fanboy himself. Since my exposure to Mohanlal is limited to a few Tamil movies and other dubbed movies, most of the references went over my head. There was, however, one reference which I thoroughly enjoyed. When someone asks ‘Enna periya MGR ah nee?’, it was a delightful nod to Mani Ratnam’s Iruvar, where Mohanlal plays MGR.
While the movie’s title gives scriptwriter Murali Gopy the license to take cues from mythology and scripture, he draws inspiration from other iconic pop culture as well. It comes as no surprise that Mohanlal’s car number is 666. Like Marvel’s Daredevil, which borrows heavily from Catholicism, Lucifer takes a lot of cue from the Bible, with Mohanlal even reciting the iconic Ezekiel 25:17 verse, immortalized by Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction. When Mohanlal tells a priest that he cannot ask forgiveness for the sins he is yet to commit, it subverts the opening scene in Daredevil, where Matt Murdock seeks forgiveness for the sins he is going to commit.
While some of these lofty ideas feel forced, other subtle references work rather well. Prithvi’s brother, who plays Govardhan, a social media crusader trying to reveal the dirty secrets of politicians, has books on Assange and Snowden, the most infamous whistle-blowers of modern times. While Manju Warrier’s character, daughter of patriarch PKR and wife of Bobby, was explored quite well, characters like Govardhan and PKR’s son, played by Tovino Thomas deserved better treatment.
With a runtime of nearly 3 hours, the movie, to its credit, never sags till it reaches its climax. Vivek Oberoi shines in a meaty antagonist role and is a fitting villain against Mohanlal in the political power struggle between evil and lesser evil. The final arc, featuring an obligatory cameo from a beefed-up Prithvi, feels rather long-drawn. But, there’s a neat little twist at the very end that ties up the loose ends in a satisfying manner. Striking a fine balance between socio-political references and crowd-pleasing moments, Lucifer is a primer on how to make a good action masala movie.