Laal Kabootar Review: Dark Satisfaction

Karachi Style Thrills!

Second cinema trip in two days, your boy is back on track! I would have gone for Laal Kabootar (LK) anyways though. The name had already ignited curiosity and the trailer have fanned the flames even more. Throw in what appear to be stellar performances from two underrated actors and a killer soundtrack, the end result is me glued to my seat throughout the film’s two hour runtime. LK isn’t perfect though, the abrupt ending does dampen the overall effect but the thrills stay with us till the end. My score: 8/10

Perfectly Imperfect

Let’s get that ending out of the way first. Like with Pinky Memsaab, I was left wondering by the end, is that it? In a film where the action is always fever pitch, where the various threads converge so beautifully, to end it without giving the characters we’ve gotten invested in thus far without closure, is disappointing.

Another disappointment comes by way of the villains as well. The main baddie, played by Mohammad Ahmed and his red-cap-donning hired gun, Asad Mama, played by Saleem Mairaj, while brilliantly portrayed, are grossly underdeveloped. They are menacing and the actors may embody them perfectly but we aren’t given any motivation to hate them. That then ensures, when they meet their end, we aren’t left as wholly satisfied as we should be.

A Slew of Stellar Performances

However, we do get some strong satisfaction. It comes by way of seeing the main characters grow. Ahmed Ali Akbar is an absolute treat to watch. It’s a real shame that he has thus far been cordoned off to comedic roles. He has incredible dramatic range and is able to imbue Adeel with such earnest desperation, ensuring that the impact is staggering.

One would think it would be a challenge to match the beats of such an exceptional co-star. Mansha Pasha makes it look easy however. Vulnerability and bad-assery in equal measure. She brilliantly displays what can happen when a good person is pushed to their limits. As exceptional as the first two leads were, the third one steals the show.

A Surprising Standout

Rashid Farooqi plays a corrupt cop. He frequently exchanges case outcomes for money and favours. At home though, he’s a family man, one that would do anything for his daughter. If Mansha shows what happens when a good person is pushed too far, Mr Farooqi shows what happens when you push a corrupt man too far. This arc, is by far the most satisfying in the entire film.

Fixing the Past

Speaking of arcs. The film takes a long running problem of Pakistani cinema and effectively does away with it beautifully. I mean, you guys already know how I feel about subplots. Screenwriter Ali Abbas Naqvi first establishes three, well layered storylines. Each of the three depicting several harsh realities of living in a at once, homely and hostile city like Karachi. He then in one fell swoop, intertwines them so well than everything falls into place. It also sets off several chains of events, all of which not only grow in their intensity but successful drag our attentions to the edge of our seats.

With our attentions so successfully commandeered, it’s a shame that it ends as abruptly as it does. Otherwise, it is a wholly beautiful film, made with similar passion and precision as Cake. Though, it misses a few beats, it does help movies like Cake in causing a seismic shift within Pakistani Cinema. That alone, makes it a worthwhile watch.

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