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'Kill': One of the Most Memorable Action Extravaganzas in Recent Memory

Amrit in Kill on his knees with a knife to his throat
Photo Courtesy of Cineplex Pictures

It takes a whole 45 minutes into Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s Kill before the title card appears on screen, flashing across the bloodied face of our lead, army commando Amrit (Lakysha). And while there couldn’t be two more different films stylistically, than Kill and Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car, there are interesting parallels to be drawn in their use of this delayed title drop gimmick. Where a shocking, cruel inciting incident shakes up the protagonist’s life that will influence the rest of his actions through the rest of the film. The title drop in Kill doesn’t so much signal the switching of gears, but upping the ante of this berserk action film into what is arguably overkill — but what an exhilarating overkill it is. 

In the opening minutes of Kill, Bhat quickly sets the stage. Amrit learns about the arranged marriage of his clandestine sweetheart Tulika (Tanya Maniktala) and decides to board a packed passenger train on which Tulika and her family are headed towards New Delhi. All runs smoothly at first: the lovers reconcile passionately, Amrit proposes to her with a ring of his own, and Tulika seems most amenable to the proposition. Unfortunately for the star-crossed lovers, and everyone else on board, the train has been infiltrated by a band of dacoits, knife-wielding bandits who storm across compartments robbing passengers. 

Things get personal as the sociopathic leader Fani (Raghav Juyal) eyes both Tulika, whom he develops an insidious lust for, and her wealthy railroad magnate father Baldev Singh Thakur (Harsh Chhaya) as targets. Amrit, alongside his friend and fellow commando Viresh (Abishek Chauhan), who’s come along for the ride, square off against the gang in an escalating series of action sequences and stakes across the train cars.

Fan standing in a train carriage from the movie Kill
Photo Courtesy of Cineplex Pictures

Plenty of action films have utilised trains as a backdrop to their action in recent years, from Snowpiercer to Train to Busan to Bullet Train — Kill might feature the most effective use of the setting. Se-yeong Oh, a stunt coordinator on Snowpiercer, teams up with Parvez Shaikh on Kill to create a very distinct action palette. It utilises the cramped, close-quarters corridors of the passenger trains to its advantage, where the narrow setting and every tight corner lets each bone-shattering blow have a particularly strong impact as the fighters have to struggle against both one another and their challenging setting.

The film makes great use of the sleeper beds, clever use of sliding doors, luggage racks, and toilet seats all to visceral effect, as well as a wide assortment of weaponry that’s creatively wielded by both sides: knives, axes, fire extinguishers, and one particularly memorable use of kerosene fluid and a lighter that brings about one of the most satisfying finishing moves I’ve seen lately. During these sequences, the camera never shies away and often closes in on the gory aftermath of these fights. 

Bhat’s inspiration for the film arises from a personal incident where dacoits robbed multiple carriages of a film he was aboard. Adding in two gung-ho commandos takes this scenario up several violent notches and even with the increasingly heightened tone and increasingly violent action, Bhat wisely grounds these characters with a certain realism. Lakysha’s bigger, bulkier Amrit and Chauhan’s smaller, agile Viresh make for a great contrast on screen in their fighting capabilities and styles as they dispatch their way across henchmen of various sizes and abilities, but we also see hefty bruises and wounds inflicted on them, feeling the weight and impact of each blow and how it slows them down. 

Amrit and Viresh feel at once superhuman at their strongest, but also very vulnerable and at the mercy of the bandits in their weakest moments, creating a tension that pulsates across the film as we tensely wait to see how they will make it out alive. This intensity is quelled on occasion by interludes to Amrit and Tulika’s relationship, cued in with a very overt romantic score that leans into the melodrama heavily. This works beautifully in tandem with the harsh, blunt nature of the action sequences as we cut back to the passengers struggling for their survival against the merciless bandits.

Amrit standing shirtless in the movie Kill
Photo Courtesy of Cineplex Pictures

Another interesting thread to the film is the perspective we get of the thieves, notably in the dynamic between Fani, his father, and senior bandit Beni (Ashish Vidhyaarthi) as they find themselves at odds on how to proceed. Juyal’s portrayal of unhinged, insolent villainy is mesmerising as we see Fani treat the train as a playground for his callous whims and desires. He sees the whole situation as something he can manipulate to his own advantage at every turn, against the more seasoned Beni who, while equally immoral, is more cautious with confronting the commandos and irate at his son’s casual manner with them. 

The in-fighting between the bandits on what to do — whether to continue to rob and kill, to kidnap, or to flee — amplifies the tension as the casualties among their ranks grow and even Fani cannot deny the repercussions of their actions. As Amrit becomes ever the more fearsome adversary, the longer the night goes on — escalating from a man simply trying to pacify the situation into a raging beast of unbridled rage.  

Although Kill aims, and succeeds, to be a crowd-pleasing action film in many regards, Bhat gives time and space on some of the more uncomfortable notions surrounding our spectatorship of our ostensible hero becoming an extreme killing machine. Amrit and Viresh make it clear early on that they are trying to merely pacify the situation and keep it in control, with the former even chastising the latter for killing a man; though professional commandos, they are trying to keep the body counts as low as possible. This makes the eruption of Amrit, almost uncontrollable in his rage and fury, to be all the more effective.

We see the bandits cowering in fear, grieving for their fallen comrades, and while the humanisation doesn’t endear us to them — they’re still the villains after all — watching what was presented as this family unit of thieves fall apart creates an unexpected texture to the film. A force of nature hurtling towards the dacoits driven by extreme emotions forms the undercurrent of this film, where relentless bloody heroism is met by a grim reality of the carnage it leaves behind. 


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