RUTHLESS IS ANTONY! ANTONY’S SON IS SCAREDY! TWO ECCENTRIC SJ SURYAHS! EERIE SILK SMITHA LOOK-ALIKE CAMEO! WIGS! GUNS! BOMBS! KABOOM!
Reading a review written like this might still seem more appealing than watching Adhik Ravichandran’s Mark Antony, an utterly loud and silly time-travel gangster drama that is neither serious in what it strives to achieve nor quirky enough to overlook its glaring issues.
The USP of Adhik’s story might circle around this simple but fascinating thought — what would happen if a time-travel device gets in between a nasty 70s gang war? Adhik’s premise and how he initially chooses to use the time travel device does show promise. It’s 1975, and Antony (Vishal) and Jackie Pandian (SJ Suryah) together rule a better part of Chennai. Unfortunately, it all goes awry when their nemesis Ekambaram (Sunil) kills Antony in a club on a fateful evening. Cut to 1995, we see Jackie as a kingpin who is more loving towards Antony’s son, Mark (Vishal again), than his own son, Madhan (Suryah again). Things take a turn when Mark comes across a Time Travel Phone made by late scientist Chiranjeevi (Selvaraghavan) that lets him place a call to the past and decides to call up his late parents.
Mark Antony (Tamil)
Director: Adhik Ravichandran
Cast: Vishal, SJ Suryah, Ritu Varma, Sunil
Runtime: 122 minutes
Storyline: In 1995, two young sons of two 70s gangsters find a time travel machine that sends their lives on a wacky roller coaster ride
Chiranjeevi’s device is an intriguing sci-tech that Adhik uses to his whims, only to reduce it to a plaything for some adult children. There are of course a few time-travel rules for this device – a call can be placed only to the past, a user cannot place a call to the same date twice, a first-time user will levitate in the air, lighting can cause disruptions, and only the user will be aware of when things change in the present after the call. But don’t bother remembering these rules as even Adhik doesn’t take it seriously.
Moreover, what is it with Tamil cinema hero characters that they don’t seem to understand even the simplest of time-travel rules? Just weeks after we saw GV Prakash as the infuriating Jeeva in Adiyae, we have Vishal play Mark, a character that neither understands time-travel nor finds any real redemption in terms of writing.
In fact, after a life-changing time-travel turn, you might expect Mark to process the sudden changes, but why bother when he can shake a leg with his ex-girlfriend Ramya (Ritu Varma), an unnecessary damsel-in-distress who gets to do very little in the film. Much of the characters in this film emote in a single, often loud, note — Antony speaks in a base voice and growls when needed, the womaniser Jackie shouts, Mark squeals or shudders, and Madhan is somewhere between all the above.
Mark Antony could have been that all-out wacky entertainer that makes you overlook any logic loopholes, but except for Suryah’s delightful presence and a few good masala moments, there is nothing really entertaining about it. The screenplay keeps you anticipated about something surprising, something that breaks the rules of the genre or something that makes up for everything that’s lost, but that never happens. And it only gets worse when Vishnu Priya Gandhi, a look-alike of late actor Silk Smitha, altered slightly using graphics, is brought in for cheap jokes; she is constantly made to speak with a seductress’ modulation and even Vishal’s seemingly empathetic dialogue about what Silk a.k.a Vijayalakshmi went through can’t hide all the irony in what follows.
Adhik has always been a controversial filmmaker, infamous for some insensitive filmmaking, and the blues continue in Mark Antony. You may not expect a heartless, womanising gangster from the 70s, like Jackie, to empathise with queers and so you might give his queerphobic dialogue a pass. But why doesn’t a filmmaker in 2023 struggle to understand that an item song featuring transwomen only adds to how they are fetishised in society or mocked? It also brings back the toxic trope of antagonising queer characters when the same transwomen attempt to kill a lead character and are beaten to a pulp, and when an effeminate gay character (Y. G. Mahendran) is antagonised.
The only saving graces of Mark Antony are its vivid colours that pop out of warm tints and the character designs. Both Vishal and Suryah look stunning in a few shots, and both the actors seemed to have had a lot of fun while playing the older characters. But if I had the Time Travel Phone, my call would have been to either Adhik after he finished his first draft or to the lead actors after they signed on to do the film. Or myself, prior to watching the film.
Mark Antony is currently running in theatres