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A promising premise goes for a toss due to terrible scene writing and unintentionally funny dialogues

Much has been tried and tested in the psycho-thriller/ police procedure genre, that the efficacy of newer films relies heavily on how they introduce freshness to the subject or how they renew older tropes. Barring the external stylisations, the arc of the psychopath’s character, how menacing they are, their modus operandi, and the pathos that made them who they are, are of foremost importance. In Pattampoochi, while writer-director Badri gets most of these aspects right, the screenplay, staging of the scenes, and dialogue writing, go for a toss.

Pattampoochi

Director: Badri

Cast: Jai, Sundar C, Honey Rose, Imman Annachi

Story: A re-investigation begins when a death row convict facing execution reveals that he is an infamous serial killer and that he is only innocent of the murder for which he was convicted

This is surprising given that the film had a rather intriguing premise that showed promise. The year is 1989, and we are introduced to Sudhakar (Jai), a prisoner serving a death sentence for homicide. Just weeks before the execution, Sudhakar reveals to a press reporter named Vijayalakshmi (Honey Rose) that he is innocent of the murder he is accused of, but adds that he is the infamous serial killer called ‘Pattampoochi’. This is no ordinary confession. Pattampoochi is known for killing seven people gruesomely, painting a mural around the scene, and leaving a butterfly figure as his signature. The news report sends the authorities into a spiral, and the court orders to postpone the execution until the police finish re-investigating the two cases. “Now I realise why they say that choosing to tell the truth does one good,” says Sudhakar, with a creepy grin.

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An investigation drama with an intelligent, mysterious psycho-killer at the centre begins. From here, the one who spearheads the narrative is Kumaran (Sundar C), the staple ‘suspended police officer with PTSD who comes back to investigate’. Kumaran asks reporter Vijayalakshmi to continue interviewing Sudhakar, in an attempt to get the piecemealing confessor to reveal his conquests. The chilling background score, intricate cuts, and a Mindhunter-ish interview setting, all add up to the mood, only for bad writing decisions to play spoilsport.

Pattampoochi struggles with not knowing when to dramatise its moments and in choosing which details to be spelt out loud. Similarly, it also doesn’t know when to withhold information and when to reveal it. Watching this film is a strange experience. At one moment, the film shocks the audience through an unexpected reveal or a grotesque sequence. This is immediately followed by an absurd moment, the presence of which, in a serious film like this, is baffling. For instance, a shocking revelation about the killer’s past (something that deals with cannibalism!) is immediately followed by a silly dialogue exchange between the killer and the cop. The high that comes from one of the biggest twists in the film gets instantly killed with a dialogue that puts a pun on ‘killing time’. A sequence that has a constable named Francis (Imman Annachi) running for his life, is staged like a Tom and Jerry chase!

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Such absurd dialogues, staging of the scenes, and loopholes are ironically…funny. It makes one wonder if the film would have worked better had it intentionally incorporated dark humour. The writing even takes a detour and establishes a wafer-thin romantic subplot between Kumaran and Vijayalakshmi, which for the major part of the film, serves no help to the bigger narrative.

Adding to its writing woes, the visual language of the film is not seamless and rather inconsistent. Further, other than the presence of a bunch of vintage movie posters and old-school ambassador cars, nothing about the mise en scene of Pattampoochi establishes its period. The decision to make it a period film seems to be just another scheme to make the narrative more convenient, given that many of the mishaps that happen in the story could have been avoided if this world had mobile phones!

The lack of depth in its core characters is disappointing, though the performances salvage some of it; in fact, Jai is so comfortable in the skin of Sudhakar. Sundar C’s Kumaran, on the other hand, is a mess. He comes off just as another foolhardy cop who finds no redemption arc in the bigger scheme of things. People shunning his warning calls, kids sneaking into his car, and characters who are unaware of the rules of hide-and-seek can’t be the kryptonite of a hero cop.

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Pattampoochi is running in theatres

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