Kill Review | Tearing Up the Tracks

by Andrew Parker

Indian action thriller Kill is a relentless, single setting thrill ride that thankfully has enough inventive, bone crunching set pieces and story touches to offset the fact that it’s frequently repetitive. Writer-director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat chugs along on the strength of his own momentum and a high level of energy, often overcoming the limitation of resources at their disposal. Kill stretches uncomfortably towards the two hour mark, with more slow points than would be advisable for something that should be quicker paced, but the good bits still outweigh the lesser stuff by a healthy margin.

Army commando Amrit (Lakshya) is on leave from the military, but still embarking on an important mission. Amrit hops aboard a train bound for Delhi, hoping to elope with his true love, Tulika (Tanya Manikatala), who’s about to be wedded to another by her dad via an arranged marriage. Their plans hit a major snag, when the train is besieged by a close knit band of familial thieves who plan to rob everyone aboard during a time when the passengers are two hours between stops. When the thieves learn that Tulika’s father is a wealthy and powerful transportation magnate, their plans shift towards a potential kidnapping and ransom scenario. It’s up to Amrit and his fellow soldier and travelling companion to stop the baddies and save the lives of all the passengers on board.

Trains have always been solid settings for action thrillers and mysteries, but they pose a certain set of challenges when it comes to keeping things fresh. There’s a limited amount of space on a train, and only so many different cars in which to stage the action. If the train isn’t going to stop anywhere and the action never shifts to locations outside the vehicle, it’s up to the filmmaker to creatively make the recurring cars feel a bit different every time. It takes a creative mastery of pacing to make someone frantically running back and forth across a train feel fresh after awhile, and while Bhat doesn’t have a great handle on that aspect of Kill, the film more than makes up for its sluggishness and visual drabness with blood soaked, visceral close quarters combat.

There are plenty of expected action movie tropes at play in Kill: the highly motivated one man army, a charismatic psychopath (Raghav Juyal) in charge of the villainous troops, the jamming of all communications and the train’s brakes, etc. It also isn’t a film that’s calling out for layered or nuanced dramatic performances, although the cast of Kill admirably does everything expected of them. Bhat’s work is all about the brawling and stunt-work. If that’s all you’re coming to see, Kill has levels of creativity and gory brutality that will scratch that itch for mayhem just fine.

The narrow aisles, sliding doors, and constant motion of a train require ingenious and precise fight choreography to execute properly, and this is where Kill succeeds in delivering the bloody goods. Bhat shoots all the mayhem without resorting to overly quick edits, and by placing the cameras in exceptional locations that highlight the hard work being put in by the performers taking beatings and getting bloodier the longer the trip becomes. Although Kill is unquestionably indebted to plenty of action movies that came before it (one could call it either The Raid or Die Hard on a train, but Under Siege 2, and Bullet Train were already Die Hard clones taking place in such a location), Bhat’s confidence in the abilities of the technical team is well placed, even though the film’s budgetary limitations means the viewer only seems the same small handful of train cars and scenarios over and over again. What happens within those cars outshines the feeling the the viewer has seen all of these locations and story beats before.

Kill also takes longer than necessary to really get going, especially with characters and a plot that’s thinner than the ticket required to take the ride. But once Bhat gets around to a truly unexpected and movie altering twist, things pick up exponentially. The viewer’s brain is suddenly able to turn off, stop asking questions about the logistics of everything going on, and they can settle in for the remainder of the trip.

Kill opens in theatres everywhere on Thursday, July 4, 2024.

 

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