Kill Movie Review: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s super-focused ‘Kill’ is a gleeful treat for lovers of gory action thrillers.

Nikhil Nagesh Bhat
The actors are Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Raghav Juyal. Some minor tonality issues apart, the film is solid adult entertainment.
Kill Movie Review

Kill Movie Cast & Crew

Production : Sikhya Entertainment,Dharma Productions
Director : Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Ever since the Hindi film industry started bringing in action choreographers from Hollywood and South Korea, the standard for stunts has gotten increasingly better. It also helps that a good part of the budget is being set aside for these set pieces. But even by those standards, Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s Kill stands apart. For one, it is a pure, super-focused genre thriller, set in a train. But this is not The Burning Train, brave attempt though that was in 1980. That was a thali-meal masala movie, with a bit of this, a bit of that, hoping to have something for everyone. It had a whole bunch of top-rung stars, a love story, one of RD Burman’s best qawwali-s, a woman in labour, a schoolteacher and her students, a smuggler… Kill has many characters, too, but it zooms in on the smuggling angle alone. A bunch of dacoits board the train, and the good guys have to battle it out.

So much of Kill is such a razor-sharp technical achievement that let’s first talk about the good guys behind the scenes: the cinematographer Rafey Mahmood, the editor Shivkumar Panicker, the action directors Sea Young Oh and Parvez Sheikh, the sound designer Subash Sahoo who creates an entire range of squelchy sound effects for the numerous ways in which human flesh is hacked and mutilated, and above all, the blood-splatter specialist whose name I didn’t quite catch. Blood is the leading man (leading woman?) of Kill. It spills. It spurts. It forms little puddles. It congeals. It peeks through knife-wound gashes. The film is a treat for lovers of gore. And visually, because of the nature of train compartments, much of the action takes place in a corridor strip, and we seem to be watching a movie made in some kind of vertical cinemascope, with the sides blocked off by berths. This adds a crucial sense of claustrophobia.

The good guys on screen are NSG commandos Amrit (Lakshya) and Viresh (a very effective Abhishek Chauhan, who shows that sidekicks can be more than a chalk outline). Amrit loves Tulika, played by the very expressive Tanya Maniktala. She manages to make a line as flat as “Humko tumhare saath jeena hai” sound like the most romantic declaration on the planet. But her stern, super-powerful, super-controlling father – who does not know about Amrit – has other plans for her marriage. Throw in a younger sister and the train, and you practically have the recipe for DDLJ. There’s a meta-analysis waiting to be written on how Kill essentially plunges a knife into the spirit of DDLJ and that generation of three-hour, happily-ever-after romances. (There’s also a nod to Mohabbatein.) I’ll not go there, but I had a nice time thinking about this angle. Even the running time is butchered. This is just one hour and forty-five minutes. All the main characters, plus assorted extras board the train, and all hell breaks loose.

The devil-in-chief is Fani (as in “snake”, a poisonous counter to “Amrit”, even in name) – and Raghav Juyal plays him with a superb mix of cockiness and casualness. You look at him and he’s no one’s idea of a “villain”. But when he speaks, you see the venom in him. Kill is not the kind of movie with much time for character flourishes. But the little touches work: like making the hero a man of few words and Fani a man who just won’t stop talking, or making Tulika’s father slowly get an idea of her and Amrit in the midst of the mayhem, or reflecting the generational gap between the older and younger dacoits.

Not everything works as well. A small, sentimental flashback with Amrit and Tulika has the effect of seeing a teddy bear on a barbed-wire fence. The few stabs at old-school dialogue feel odd. About the bandits, Amrit says, “Utrenge zaroor, lekin doosron ke kandhon par.” Meaning: They’ll get off the train, sure, but as corpses. This Sholay-like line (there, it was “baap ke kandhon par bete ka janaza”) feels as awkward here as the background track that goes “Jaako raakhe saaiyan…” Why bring in a reference to the almighty in this godless, nihilistic universe where as many good guys die as bad ones? And the hero needed to have had more attitude. Lakshya has smooth good looks, but he is unable to infuse much character into the part. Considering that Kill is basically Die Hard on a Train, it’s hard not to think of an actor like Bruce Willis, who has a hundred backstories carved on his face. Sometimes, and especially in such films, you don’t need character writing. The right casting is enough.

Yes, Kill is derivative. If you are of my generation, you’ll recall something like Von Ryan’s Express. If you’re younger, you’ll probably think of something like the newer version of The Taking of Pelham 123. But what it does, it does very well. The interval shocker is rock-solid – though I wish they had done away with the sentimental music and retained the techno feel of the score. There’s a thrilling, robotic, video-game quality to the cyclical nature of events: good guy is killed, bad guy is killed, good guy is killed, bad guy is killed… Even when the action gets a bit repetitive, what fuels the film is the fury, the intensity, the two men being slammed together by a third, an eye being pierced like a bullseye target, a cheek being carved like a slice of cake… Kill makes no apologies for being what it is: a violent genre piece. And its achievement is that it gets to its goal with very little flab.

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Baradwaj Rangan

National Award-winning film critic Baradwaj Rangan, former deputy editor of The Hindu and senior editor of Film Companion, has carved a niche for himself over the years as a powerful voice in cinema, especially the Tamil film industry, with his reviews of films. While he was pursuing his chemical engineering degree, he was fascinated with the writing and analysis of world cinema by American critics. Baradwaj completed his Master’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations through scholarship. His first review was for the Hindi film Dum, published on January 30, 2003, in the Madras Plus supplement of The Economic Times. He then started critiquing Tamil films in 2014 and did a review on the film Subramaniapuram, while also debuting as a writer in the unreleased rom-com Kadhal 2 Kalyanam. Furthermore, Baradwaj has authored two books - Conversations with Mani Ratnam, 2012, and A Journey Through Indian Cinema, 2014. In 2017, he joined Film Companion South and continued to show his prowess in critiquing for the next five years garnering a wide viewership and a fan following of his own before announcing to be a part of Galatta Media in March 2022.