If the promotional material of the film were something to go by, Cobra was rightly expected to be in a space that Vikram revels in. The actor is known for his fascination for prosthetic-heavy looks, multiple identities manifesting out of a broken mind, dual roles....you get the idea. While quite a few attempts that banked on this 'Vikram' formula failed, Ajay Gnanamuthu somehow seems to have understood the task at hand, at least initially. He sets up a story with a protagonist that fits the bill for the malleable actor.

Vikram plays Madhiazhagan, a mathematics teacher who moonlights as a highly-skilled assassin. His acumen and aptitude in applying mathematics to the real world, with the chameleon-like ability to hide under a new skin, help him in executing the most outlandish of assassinations. One of the characters even likens his actions to that of a cobra that can shed skin when required and strike a deadly blow if needed. Yes, we get the cliche hero appeasement dialogues that elevate Madhi as a Lex Luthor-meets-Deadshot kind of figure and the way he executes these assassinations is a bit of an overreach (He hardly even uses mathematics!). Yet, the first act is a rather smooth sail. Ajay adds intriguing characters to the mix, such as an Interpol officer named Aslan (Irfan Pathan) who heads the manhunt searching for Madhi; a manic villain named Rajiv Rishi (Roshan Mathew) who does devil-knows-what other than ordering these assassinations; Nellaiappan (KS Ravikumar), Madhi's Alfred Pennyworth-like figure; and a surprise character that eventually takes things up a notch. There is promise in how Ajay builds his world and we keep getting something to invest in or look forward to.

Cobra has the touches of a well-nourished action thriller. There are guns everywhere, a rich baddie (played by Roshan Mathew) who struts around in bathrobes and suits, and a handler (played by K. S. Ravikumar) who doubles up as Madhi’s mentor. Although the hero seems to operate as a one-man army, he gets instructions from his handler without whom he’d be regarded as nothing more than a mathematical genius.

Madhi definitely has a lot to be happy about. He never buckles under pressure despite being cornered, but there’s something else that keeps pulling him down. As long as director Ajay Gnanamuthu takes Vikram around the world, things appear fun. Aslan (Irfan Pathan), an Interpol officer, who’s given the task of nabbing the killer, doesn’t pose any danger to the protagonist. So, Madhi is totally free to do whatever he wants. Aslan is a talker, not a doer. You never see him connect the dots, or come up with a delicious strategy to set a trap for his bête noire. Why would anybody give him this important case in which most of the victims are politicians?

I get the idea that Aslan isn’t the one we’re supposed to be invested in. He’s just another cop who can’t think out of the box. His incompetence isn’t shocking, but it is, nevertheless, a sore point. And Rishi, the rich baddie is an arrogant man who has no ethics. He’s a villain for the sake of being a villain. Madhi, therefore, is the sole character whose graph is interesting. But he’s a good guy at the end of the day. He’s not a very good guy. He’s still a killer, but he reroutes the money he makes from the killings to charities.

Perhaps, Gnanamuthu divides his supporting characters into two categories: black and white. And the grey character that remains on the stage is the protagonist. Madhi could have bought an island somewhere and called it his holiday home. But that would have made him selfish. He could have married the love of his life, Bhavana (Srinidhi Shetty), without waiting for the approval of her family members. But that would have again made him selfish.