Following a series of murders of police officials, a black ops cop goes after a mysterious gang of masked men, which has declared war on the system, which is protecting a fearsome drug lord. Lokesh Kanagaraj brings together the espionage-filled world of Kamal Haasan’s 1986 film Vikram and his own 2019 film Kaithi’s action-filled world of drug lords and cops in Vikram, a predictably plotted action film that is more interested in expanding its universe without really immersing us into it. It holds the mysteries of a spy film and provides the thrills of an action film to some extent, but it doesn’t feel wholly satisfactory and fails to leave us with the adrenaline rush that a film with such high ambitions promises. The film does starts off intriguingly, when Karnan (Kamal Haasan), the father of a martyred cop Prapanchan is killed. We learn that there has been a series of such killings with a group of masked men taking responsibility for it and calling it their war against the system. Police chief Jose brings in a black ops team headed by Amar (Fahadh Faasil), who starts digging into Karnan’s life. The chief suspect is Sandhanam (Vijay Sethupathi), a fearsome drug lord with a large family, who is searching for a shipment of raw material that could make him a kingpin. Meanwhile, Amar is puzzled by the many versions of Karnan. Was he an alcoholic father grieving over the loss of his son, a womaniser or much more? More importantly, is he dead or alive? Vikram works best in its first half, when we see Amar and his team trying to make sense of the murders and track down the killers. Even though these portions have very little of Kamal Haasan, we keep sensing his presence, both as the character and as the actor. There are nods to Kamal’s oeuvre, from Nayakan to Anbe Sivam and spotting them offers some minor thrills. The actor, who is in action-star mode here, also gets a whistle-worthy moment, which leads to the interval. And Vijay Sethupathi seems to be taking off from where he left in Master, playing a ruthless villain. But once the easy-to-guess mystery around Karnan is cleared, the narrative becomes rather straight-faced. A small bunch of cops should hold out against an army of gangsters. It’s similar to what we got in Kaithi, but here, it is less effective. To his credit, Lokesh tries to provide an emotional undercurrent, with a sub-plot involving Karnan and Prapanchan’s baby, but it isn’t affecting enough. And the arcs involving Amar and Sandhanam, too, turn predictable. Fahadh’s Amar gets more or less written off while Vijay Sethupathi comes across as trying too hard. Narain, as Bejoy, the honest cop from Kaithi, is also given the short shrift. Even the much-publicised cameo by Suriya, which acts as a set-up for the next installment in the ‘Lokesh Kanagaraj Universe’, is a tad underwhelming. The action scenes, while solidly choreographed, never leave us with a rush. But, in a film filled with action heroes, the biggest mass moment comes in a stunt scene involving a female character (a maid/spy, played by Vasanthi). Vikram needed more such moments to be truly memorable.