Kabali was always going to be 100% about Rajinikanth's super stardom. It was going to be about his action, his style, his persona. The character Kabali would be designed to suit that purpose. Unfortunately, it doesn't blend well at all with this attempt at “gang war with a heart”.
I shudder as I say that maybe a star vehicle like this is better off without a story rather than having botched attempts at drama and emotion under the garb of action. It makes just every thing seem forced - even the action, even the supposedly “cool” lines.
In fact, even Kabali's catchphrase is outright lame. It all boils down to Rajinikanth's delivery to make it as stylish as he possibly could. And yet it doesn't work. Other than that then, he plays his suave best. One scene in which he is overwhelmed by emotion stands out giving you a glimpse of what the actor can do despite the star in him.
The rest of the film is only to serve the over-arching purpose called “Rajinikanth”. In that too, Radhika Apte tries to hold her ground. You can tell she is trying to blend into the genre but can't help herself every once in a while. The other members of the cast overdo everything with shrills. It becomes repetitive and annoying.
In its own way it is a boon that the focus is never too far away from Rajinikanth. At least the target audience is happy. Though I must say I heard a couple of them restless for the interval. The second half had enough emotional mumbo-jumbo for even me to hope that the next double-crossing was around the corner.
I was looking forward to the audience hooting at Rajinikanth's swag to keep me smiling for 2.5 hours. But, that didn't quite happen after the first five minutes of his expectedly stylish entry. I wonder why.
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*It is cosmic intervention that this movie is the 1212th one in the wogma database. Or maybe it is just the Rajini force.
- meeta, a part of the audience
Thumbs up, by Arun Venkatraman, Deccan Chronicle : ...The lead up to the final scenes strike the final nail and by now Ranjith seems to have already buckled under the superstars weight. By the end, you end up getting the pure, escapist thrill of watching a Rajini film, giving us the sense that it's a film that could have been more, but was only destined to be another 'historic blockbuster'. ... full review
So-So, by IST, Bollywood Hungama : ...On the whole, KABALI is an archetypal Rajinikanth film that will surely be lapped up by his hardcore fans. Rajinikanth does his best to carry the film on his able shoulders but the audiences will be left wanting for more. ... full review
So-So, by Anupama Subramanian, Deccan Chronicle : ...'Magizhchi' is the only punch word Rajini utters throughout the film: well, you be the judge of how happy and content you are afterwards. ... full review
So-So, by Smita Vyas Kumar, Desi Martini : ...I loved being in the theatre and feeling the energy of the people around me. I clapped and screamed along with them. It kept me going. The movie by itself will not much work for anybody who is not a believer. Dekho magar pyar se or blaze in Hell. Neruppu da!... full review
So-So, by Karthik Kumar, Desi Martini : ...Once again Ranjith manages to extract the best background score from Santhosh Narayanan who unleashes his inner Thalaivar fan with a variety of foot-tapping scores. ... full review
So-So, by Ameet Bhuwan, Desi Martini : ...The film is paced dreadfully slow, a mere two and half hours seem like an eternity. The climax is a cop out, the plot twists merely done in a different style- nothing about the film is fresh, save for Rajni. The man himself digs into his part, regales as the super star, flashes the “actor” in him every now and then and just about manages to make a die hard fan whistle up and jump in his seat. For a cinema lover who would want him to do meatier stuff, this is just a more stylised rehash of every other Rajni film since always. And that might not be a good thing for the super star anymore. ... full review
So-So, by Mukesh Kumar, Desi Martini : ...Yes. We were given 2.30 hours of Rajinilanth. Exactly the kind of charming Rajinikanth for which we were craving for years. But not in the exact demeanour we wanted to. Kabali is just a shadow of what it could've been. Ranjith lets us down. But not Rajinikanth. ... full review
So-So, by Rachit Gupta, Filmfare : ...It takes Rajnikanth's presence to make Kabali an entertaining movie. Without him, this would've been a good looking but very forgettable film. But with Rajni's characteristic aura, Kabali does become an event film. Must watch in Tamil. ... full review
So-So, by Ravi Kandala, fullhyd.com : ...The film is shot well - loads of money has been spent, and it is clear in the output. The action choreography is decent, too, and the superstar is reduced to mere mortal levels in most scenes. ... full review
So-So, by Vishal Verma, Life Love and Logic : ...Well reviewing a Rajinikanth film and going more in details won't serve much. If you are still reading this then we conclude by saying that if you wish to see the actor Rajinikanth more than the superstar Rajinikanth and are awed by known Bollywood cliches then KABALI is a fair deal.... full review
So-So, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...Reminiscent of 80s gangster movies, this one's in a time warp. Watching the baddies being beaten to pulp by a hero whose insults are as fierce as his blows, this one is comfort food. Chomp away. ... full review
So-So, by Raja Sen, Rediff : ...What is interesting, besides Rajinikanth, is the wonderfully mixed iconography Pa Ranjith throws together in this film about immigrants and borrowed cultures. ... full review
So-So, by Saisuresh Sivaswamy, Rediff : ...Overall, Rajinikanth retains his swag, shows off his dialogue delivery, fights a mean bit, and wows the fans. But is that good enough at a time when the audiences are wanting more? ... full review
So-So, by S Saraswathi, Rediff : ...Kabali is definitely not your regular Rajini film and is most likely to disappoint his fans. The film is also not as gripping as Ranjith’s critically acclaimed Madras. ... full review
So-So, by Ritika Handoo, Zee News : ...The filmmaker has deliberately left an open-ended climax because when you are a gangster not all endings are a happily ever after! Watch 'Kabali' because this is a tribute to Thalaiva and you don't really need a reason to watch a Rajinikanth film—mind it! ... full review
Thumbs down, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks Cinema.com : ...Anyway, lets continue with our work of exploring the must watch regional gems made in different Indian languages at the site, and hope Rajinikanth comes up with a much better venture soon forgetting this poor KABALI. ... full review
Thumbs down, by Sreeju Sudhakaran, Bollywood Hungama : ...Riding on so much hype and Rajinikanth’s star power, Kabali turns out to be a huge disappointment. Though Rajinikanth keeps on saying Magizchi (Cheers! in English) in the film, there is very less to cheer about anywhere in here, even for his die-hard fans. Only watch the film if you want to know why there is so much craze over Rajinikanth. ... full review
Thumbs down, by Vignesh Radhakrishnan,, Hindustan Times : ...For Thalaivar fans, it’ll be hard to tell. Though Rajinikanth shines, he has a long career in which Kabali doesn’t quite fit. ... full review
Thumbs down, by Suhani Singh, india today : ...After two hours and 30 minutes we still don't know what keeps his empire running given that it is against his principles to trade in drugs or women. Radhika Apte as Kabali's wife appears more as a model for India's rich handicraft tradition by ambling about in beautiful saris. Dhansika is the better-served female character here as a feisty contract killer, whose introduction alone is a giveaway to what her back story is.Rajinikanth displays ample of charisma but his Robin Hood act is not enough to keep the Thalaivar fans entertained.... full review
Thumbs down, by Krishnakumar Padmanabhan, MiD DAY : ...The superb music by Santosh Narayan and the extremely political lyrics only magnify the script’s flaws. (Even some of the key dialogues are political, but they do not have the same impact as the powerful lyrics, primarily because of the poor script.) ... full review
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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.
Parental guidance: - Violence: Lots of fist and gun fights. Very bloody. - Language: Clean. A couple of abusive words silenced out. - Nudity & Sexual content: None - Concept: Gang wars