Review: The Stoneman Murders

Review: The Stoneman Murders

Source: General

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Monday 16 February 2009

Movie Title

Review: The Stoneman Murders


Manish Gupta

Star Cast

Kay Kay Menon, Arbaaz Khan, Vikram Gokhale, Rukhsar

The title is ominous; the promos more so. In these trying times, this writer debated whether the junta would be in mood for a grisly, gloomy picture. But the film turns out to be a surprising entertainer.

Fiction meets reality in this tale about the `80s mystery-ridden pavement murders. The police led by (Arbaaz Khan) is advised high-alert, but is busy wolfing down free food from roadside stalls and engaging prostitutes on their night vigil. Suspended cop Sanjay (Kay Kay Menon) is hinted that he might get his job back if he manages to solve the Stoneman Case. Always one to take on an impossible challenge, Sanjay starts his parallel investigation, roaming the deserted, uncomfortably calm streets at night.

He gathers some clues: notices that the murders are all of beggars and the homeless and done with boulders; the killings are done only on Tuesdays and Saturdays; and that there is a ritualistic method to them. Helping Sanjay is his loyal friend and constable Kamble (Virendra Saxena, excellent) and his ex-boss AIG Satam (Vikram Gokhale, apt) who keeps in touch with him surreptitiously.

We empathize with Sanjay?s desperate bid to catch the murderer and his witnessing the victims? deaths only makes his resolve stronger. We are with Sanjay as he pieces the clues together, his alert eyes not missing even the tiniest evidence. All through the film you have bitingly suspenseful moments. Somewhere along the film, the hunter becomes the hunted and Sanjay, his fraternity believes, might be the killer after all.

The Stoneman Murders loses its grip in its pandering to clich?s, like we see Sanjay enter a bar and immediately know the premise is ripe for insinuating an item song. The song has the lady dancer gyrate, with intercuts of our unaffected hero scouting for information. Another stereotype is of the ousted genius cop who doesn?t get along with his fraternity, roams around oozing coolth doing his own thing, ignores his family life over obsessing on the present case, and has a mentor who understands and sympathizes. Again, the film tries too hard to manipulate your emotions by making the last person who Sanjay interacts with, the next Stoneman victim.

As far as goriness goes, the film is retrained. You do have some bloody shots and some uncomfortable photographs but they are few. (Our news channels show far more revolting footage with a nonchalant note.) Writer-director-lyricist Manish Gupta (Darna Zaroori Hai) does a fair job of giving us a tight thriller that?s a hair away from soft horror. He is good at extracting performances, thrashing the subject adequately, and employing the technical aspects in aiding the storytelling.

The technical crew impresses (all from the Ram Gopal Varma School): Cinematography (Srikant Naroj, Ram Gopal Varma?s D Company ? the influence is evident), action (Pradyuman Kumar, Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag); art direction (Satish Chipkar, Ab Tak Chhappan). Background score is interesting only in parts, going several notes too loud most of the times serving as a distraction.

It?s interesting how some contemporary films can look dated, while this film doesn?t look jaded one bit. About the only thing reminding you of its datedness is the absence of mobile phones, the advertisement for Four Square cigarettes, and the now-invisible Fiat car. It?s also replete with interesting nuggets, like the beggar informer who refuses food for information (mera pet full hai), but agrees for a drug fix.

The film belongs to the note-perfect performances. The supporting cast is stupendous. And what to say of Kay Kay Menon ?he is such an enthusiastic artiste, putting in nuance for a single turn of expression. The film could have been super-engrossing had it not adopted clich?s in the storytelling; still, it?s a decent watch for the story, the biting suspense, and yes, the performances.

Rating: Two and a half stars

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