Credit: Roadside Attractions
by Daniel Gorman Featured Film Genre Views

Kill — Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

July 8, 2024

2024 has so far proven to be a great year for action cinema: whatever its flaws, The Fall Guy is a paean to stuntmen and women, an unabashed love letter that puts their dangerous but thrilling work front and center; Furiosa is an expressionistic frenzy of beautiful mayhem; and lower-budgeted fare like Land of Bad, One More Shot, and Life After Fighting all make a case for the breadth and width of the genre — guns, kung fu, grappling, the works. In the parlance of our times, genre fans are eating. In the absence of a new Gareth Evans or Timo Tjahjanto project, Nikhil Nagesh Bhat‘s Kill fills the void for fast, brutal, and gory quite nicely. The film has already been compared to The Raid ad nauseam, and it’s easy to see why — the vertical trajectory of The Raid is here reconfigured along a horizontal axis, a journey from the top to bottom of a high-rise building here transformed into a back-and-forth slug fest across the length of a train. Skulls will be cracked, repeatedly and with gleeful abandon.

Bhat sets up his scenario in just a few minutes; anti-terrorism commando Amrit (Lakshya) and his fellow soldier/best bud Viresh (Abhishek Chauhan) hop on a train to pursue Tulika (Tanya Maniktala), who loves Amrit but has gotten engaged to another man at the behest of her powerful father Baldeo (Harsh Chhaya). On their way to New Delhi, Amrit proposes to Tulika, she says yes, and now the newly engaged couple must figure out how she can break her prior engagement and convince her father that their love is true. But before that can happen, young bandit Fani (Raghav Juyal) and his father Beni (Ashish Vidyarthi), leading a group of 40 men, infiltrate the train and begin robbing the passengers. Beni’s plan is to get as much loot as possible and then exit at the next station, but Fani spots Tulika and becomes smitten. He begins harassing her, a fight breaks out, and Viresh kills one of the bandits. An already tense situation is now escalated, a total powder keg with the volatile Fani now determined to take revenge on Tulika’s entire family for Viresh’s transgression.

Virtually the entirety of Kill is set on this train, and so Bhat, collaborating with action directors Se-yeong Oh and Parvez Sheikh and cinematographer Rafey Mehmood, has the distinct challenge of utilizing a distinctly cramped space while modulating pacing. The team of artists are mostly very successful; repetition inevitably sets in, but the filmmakers for the most part find ways to mix up their scenario, divvying the film up into discrete set pieces that largely have their own individual rhythms. Fani doesn’t know who Tulika’s father is, or his status as a powerful businessman with government and military connections, nor do the bandits know that Amrit is on the train, or that he has a connection to Tulika and Viresh (who quickly becomes a hostage). It’s a series of strategic thrusts and parries, as Tulika and her father hole up at one end of the train, Fani attempts to lay siege to Tulika, and Amrit trawls the compartments fighting bad guys and searching for Tulika’a younger sister, who has been separated from the group.

All of this culminates with a shocking act of violence and a belated title drop at around the 45-minute mark, after which Bhat launches the intensity into the stratosphere. What before was largely a mission of evasion and rescue now becomes a bloody quest for vengeance, with Amrit fully transforming into an unstoppable killing machine. In a fairly unique touch, Bhat frequently stops the action for the bandits to mourn their dead — this gang is actually a large extended family, a mix of fathers and sons, uncles and cousins. By the time Amrit is hanging corpses from the ceilings of train compartments, you almost feel bad for the baddies. The fight choreography is simple but enormously effective, emphasizing blunt brutality and lots of quick stabbing motions; there’s no room on the train for elegant kicks or other acrobatic feats, so instead there’s lots of brute force shoving, grappling, and wrestling moves, all topped off by vicious finishing kills — there’s a truly unbelievable amount of head trauma in this film, as Amrit’s fury reconfigures the various train compartments into veritable charnel houses. Kill is a wild, vicious ride, and while this sort of over-the-top blood and guts won’t be to every viewer’s taste, for those action fans who appreciate grievous bodily harm executed with impressive technical skill, this is a must-see.

DIRECTOR: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat;  CAST: Laksh Lalwani, Tanya Maniktala, Raghav Juyal, Abhishek Chauhan;  DISTRIBUTOR: Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate;  IN THEATERS: July 4;  RUNTIME: 1 hr. 55 min.