THE STORY – Follows a passenger on a train to New Delhi. The train soon becomes a combat battleground as a pair of commandos face an army of invading bandits.
THE CAST – Laksh Lalwani, Raghav Juyal & Tanya Maniktala
THE TEAM – Nikhil Nagesh Bhat (Director/Writer) & Ayesha Syed (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 115 Minutes
With hints of inspiration from Gareth Evans’ “The Raid” and Bong Joon Ho’s “Snowpiercer,” Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s martial arts thriller “KILL” takes a bloody, relentless ride aboard a train full of heroes and bandits. While evident in its influence, Bhat’s action spectacle finds its singular groove in everything from the choreography and characters, down to the film’s title card. “KILL” may have just been a skeleton for a story, but the bones are strong enough to hold firm. With a compelling cast of characters, a cool collapsible train set design, and pulsating fight sequences, the film stands out amongst an overflowing excess of generic action films. Plus, it has the crucial ingredient of simply being entertaining to watch unfold. Once the incredibly timed title card kicks in, this hard-hitting ride sticks to its histrionic track and never loses steam.
“KILL” is set on a New Delhi-bound passenger train invaded by a group of weapon-wielding robbers. The story balances the robbers’ vantage point with army commando friends Amrit (Lakshya) and Viresh, who board a mission to stop an arranged marriage. Amrit, recently engaged to the love of his life, Tulika (Tanya Maniktala), sets out to save their relationship as Tulika’s family hurries her onto the train for marriage. Her father then becomes an unwittingly key player in the story. When the bandits discover that he owns a successful company called Shanti Transport, he suddenly becomes the jackpot target for a kidnapping. This revelation raises the stakes and directs the plot towards a chaotic, brutal, revenge-fueled ride.
The story itself is not the film’s strongest suit, but it provides a reliable and loose framework for the action choreography and performances to fill in the blanks. Considering the close range between spaces on the train, the action sequences – choreographed by Se-yeong Oh (known for “Snowpiercer”) and Parvez Shaikh – dazzle with a blend of practicality and crowd-pleasing bloodshed. The confines of the film’s setting place no limitations on the creativity in choreography, from unique fight angles to styles of kills. The action is also a neat extension of the protagonist Amrit’s state of mind; after witnessing a wrongful doing, he descends into a non-stop fit of vengeance, relentlessly taking out his anger on everyone who dares cross his path. The viewer immediately becomes hooked on the intense emotions that drive Amrit to the brink of madness. Where the story lacks, the film makes up for through the world-building and performances.
Making his feature film acting debut, Lakshya brings an impressive physicality and intensity to the role of Amrit. The escalating train action reveals his character’s experience as a highly trained army commando. When the film shifts into pure revenge mode, Lakshya is fully on board, keeping up with the character’s sharper and more relentless fighting style. Plus, Lakshya exhibits some range between the action sequences and the story’s central romance. While the relationship between Amrit and Tulika is underdeveloped and rushed, Lakshya charts the character’s rollercoaster of emotion, given the nerve-racking direction their romance goes.
Villains in action films can be terribly generic and flimsy regarding their intentions. Not to mention, the material is often subject to one-note performances. Raghav Juyal’s refreshing work in “KILL” subverts said expectations. Juyal brings a twisted, humorous quality to the villainous character of Fani. His unassuming nature and quick thinking add a compelling unpredictability to the film. For every moment of levity the character brings, there is one of sheer terror and frustration from the pain he inflicts on innocent characters. Juyal strikes the balance of the character, making his threatening nature known while also downplaying and switching on the charisma when the moment calls for it.
With its violent body count and insanely choreographed sequences that find weaponry in just about any object and compartment on the train, “KILL” more than lives up to its title. Nikhil Nagesh Bhat and his team have crafted a memorable action film that utilizes martial arts skillfulness to fantastic degrees. The film’s remarkable choreography and tight pacing create an intense, entertaining experience. The simplicity of the storyline leaves much to be desired, particularly regarding the film’s familial and romantic aspects. But the characters and performances manage to stand out, giving weight to the film’s melodramatic tone. “KILL” pulsates with strong emotional beats, an intense buildup of stakes, and a thrilling use of setting.