The Spool / Movies
Kill goes in when taking names and faces but stumbles elsewhere
The Hindi "Die Hard on a train" actioner is worth seeing, but it's not an all-timer.
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Amrit Rathod (Lakshya) is a commando. He is a peerless soldier among peers. He’s as ruthless as he is skilled, and when he fights, he wins. It might be a slugfest, and he cannot walk off a hit like it’s nothing, but if someone fights him, he’s the one who walks away from the fight. He’s also a good friend to his fellow commando Viresh (Abhishek Chauhan) and a loving partner to his girlfriend Tulika Singh (Tanya Maniktala. When Tulika’s wealthy father arranges her engagement to someone she doesn’t love, Amrit and Viresh catch the Singhs’ train. The plan is simple—link up with Tulika and elope.

The trick is that their train has been marked for robbery by an extended family of bandits—fathers, siblings, and cousins. Fani (Raghav Juyal) may not be the patriarch, the strongest, or even the most respected among the bandit crew. But he is ruthless, sadistic, and determined to come out on top. No one will stop him from pulling the robbery off, and he will not tolerate disrespect. When the bandits make their first play, Amrit wants to stop them. After Fani makes his play, a vicious move that introduces the title card 45 minutes in, Amrit wants them dead. And he has the ability and the will to make that happen.

Writer/director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s Kill is a decent entry in the growing hyper-violent 21st-century action cinema library. Like Gareth Evans’ The Raid, Kill uses the geography of its setting to its choreography’s advantage. Like John Hyams’ Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, Kill pays attention to the immediate psychological effects of extreme violence. Like Timo Tjahjanto’s The Night Comes for Us, Kill builds some of its strongest action beats on improvised weaponry and unique flavors of grody that can result from its creative application. It doesn’t reach their level, but it’s a worthy swing with strong narrative escalation and an enjoyably despicable turn from Juyal.

Kill‘s fights are slobberknockers to the last. Whether fought with fists, blades, hammers, parts of the train, or lighter fluid, no one comes out of a clash in Kill without taking a hit. In a film whose action is defined by continual escalation—from Amrit and Viresh’s initial attempts to stop the robbers to the moments where Fani and Amrit hit their separate “That’s it, everyone dies!” lines and take the gloves off—every fight has a consequence. The more hits Amrit takes, the more he uses the train’s geography and weapons to compensate for his decreased mobility and striking power. The more desperate Fani gets, the more reckless he’s willing to be.

It’s exciting and kinetic action, moving up, down, and around train cars in ways that simultaneously showcase how confined a place the cars are to fight and the surprising amount of room they can have despite that when push comes to shove. Likewise, Bhat contrasts Amrit’s improvised weapons with the more conventional blades favored by Fani’s family: Both types of weapon can and do ruin people, but there’s a difference between a stabbing and one of recent action cinema’s more eye-popping immolations. Bhat skillfully cranks up the hazards and intensity of Kill‘s fights, topping each big moment with something bigger while ensuring they get the space they need to shine.

While Kill‘s action is strong and enjoyable throughout, its character work and storytelling are shakier. Amrit’s relationships with Tulika and Viresh are hastily sketched. Consequently, they don’t have the space to breathe and ground the picture’s story. Amrit himself is an okay-at-best protagonist—Lakshya’s a likable performer and compelling in action, but he doesn’t have the material to make Amrit anything other than an archetype. He’s not unlikable, but he lacks the spark that Juyal gets to build with Fani. Fani starts out wanting to rob the train and get home.

Between his fraught relationship with his family, an opportunity to take the robbery from a good score to a life-changing score, and the chaos Amrit wreaks on the family’s plans, Fani curdles. He makes brutality a first resort and punctuates his arguments with sadism—plunging further into venality because he needs his plans to work, and being the worst man in the world increasingly seems like the way to make that happen. Juyal blends desperation, sneering cruelty, and blinkered devotion into a compellingly loathsome scumbag—the strongest acting in Kill by far.

If Kill‘s character work matched its actioncraft, it would be great. As it stands, it’s alright—worth seeing for actionheads and folks who dig the creative use of a comparatively limited space but not an all-timer.

Kill is currently playing in theaters.

Kill Trailer: