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Kill ★★★★



Released: 5th July 2024

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala

Review By: Awais Irfan

Few films send such a shockwave through the cultural zeitgeist that their presence lingers on over a decade later. The Raid’s iron-clad grip on the action genre has been unshakeable since its 2011 release, inspiring dozens of copycats and now the gold standard for fight choreography. Not many films come close, of course, but Indian martial arts thriller Kill is a pretty good attempt at rekindling the white-knuckle exhilaration of the genre at its best.

The inspiration for Kill comes from director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s own experience waking up from a nap on his cross-country train journey, only to find armed bandits had robbed the carriages. Retooling that into a forbidden love story, the narrative follows army commando Amrit (Lakshya) who has stowed away on a train to save his lover Tulika (Tanya Maniktala) from an arranged marriage. But when a group of bandits, led by Fani (Raghav Juyal), attack the train and take Tulika hostage, Amrit sets off on a rampage to free her.

While the setup is a little baggy, once it finds its groove, what follows is a nearly 90-minute carnival of violence as Amrit fights his way through the train carriages, each tougher to clear than the last. The narrative isn’t particularly innovative and the writing is often corny to a fault (even by the standards of over-the-top Bollywood melodrama), complete with music choices that never fit the moment either. Yet the film constantly subverts the rules of the action playbook, raising the stakes in surprising ways which underpins the fisticuffs with a genuine pathos.

It’s the action that audiences are there for though, with Bhat’s direction of the combat proving incredibly impressive. Every fight is creatively staged with knives, fire extinguishers and even hockey sticks making up the arsenal of weaponry that helps Amrit break, bruise and dismember those standing in his way, leaving a shudderingly large body count in his wake. Considering the entirety of the action takes place on a train, it’s a testament to the choreography and stuntwork that it never feels repetitive or loses its edge. From knives jammed down throats or in eyeballs to throats ripped open or even skulls caved in, Bhat wrings every altercation for all the drops of blood it has and the results are satisfyingly wince-inducing.

However, there’s a genuinely emotional arc carved out at the centre of the whole thing between Amrit and Tulika without which the film would largely feel like empty set-piece after empty set-piece for the sake of it. Each bone snapped and skull smashed feels earned given how well the story sets up its characters and the curveballs it throws into the mix to elevate what we’re watching. You care about these characters and the revenge makes sense. And it makes each and every bloody kill all the more ecstatic when it does happen – the kind of euphoric action that has a packed out crowd erupting into applause at every turn. Part-Snowpiercer, part-The Raid and not as sharp as the former or as game-changing as the latter but Kill is an invigorating new entry into the action canon. This is how it’s done and what an absolute barnstormer it is.

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