Movies · Reviews

‘Kill’ Unleashes Cathartic Thrills and Bloody Spills On a Train

All aboard for revenge, slaughter, and adult men crying!
Kill
By  · Published on July 8th, 2024

Action movies with one-note plots, ripped leads, and a focus on more grounded fights and stunts (instead of CG heavy set-pieces) used to be a staple at movie theaters back in the 80s and 80s. Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and others found themselves in the wrong place at the right time and proceeded to beat, maim, and murder dozens of nameless baddies for our entertainment — and it was glorious. We don’t get these cinematic treats nearly as often these days, although Jason Statham tears it up beautifully in this year’s The Beekeeper, but a new Indian film has hit U.S. theaters in limited release, and it is tailormade for fans of simple, stylish, and highly satisfying bloodlust. Kill isn’t just its title, it’s also the lead character’s mantra — and yeah, it is glorious.

Amrit (Lakshya) is an Army commando who gets word that the woman (Tanya Maniktala) he loves has been moved into an arranged engagement by her father. He takes leave with his good buddy Viresh (Abhishek Chauhan) to propose to her and hopefully whisk her away, but after joining her family on a long-haul train ride, a new problem rears its ugly head. Bandits have decided to target the train, robbing passengers and causing mayhem, but they misstep in a big way when their cockiest member, Fani (Raghav Juyal), kills someone close to Amrit. Fools.

Kill eschews the big, elaborately over-the-top action of recent Indian hits like RRR (2022) and Pathaan (2023) to deliver a tight, streamlined ride fueled by adrenaline, momentum, and unbridled violence. It’s as thrilling and bloody as you’re hoping, but writer/director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat has a little something extra up his sleeve in the form of some unexpected emotional beats. You’re expecting Amrit to be triggered by an emotional loss, but have you ever given a thought to what the throngs of doomed thugs and thieves are going through?

More on that below, but first we gotta talk action as that is Kill‘s bread and butter. Comparisons to Gareth Evans’ The Raid (2011) are apt, to a degree, as instead of fighting his way up a high-rise, Amrit is working his way through a moving train. Both films devote their final two-thirds to near-nonstop action, but a big difference here comes in the style of action. While Iko Uwais unleashes his silat style of martial arts throughout, Lakshya uses his formal martial arts to defend and disarm foes early on before growing more animalistic along the way. Soon he’s a brawling beast moving through the train and his enemies like human Olestra leaving a real mess in his wake.

Cinema is filled with great train-set action films, from Buster Keaton’s The General (1926) to Peter Hyams’ Narrow Margin (1990), and Bhat’s Kill easily earns a spot on the list. Exterior beats are kept to the bare minimum, as instead we spend nearly the entire film inside the confines of the train. Rather than feel dull, though, the increasingly tight confines lend themselves beautifully to fights and scraps forced to grow more creative in their execution. Amrit battles two dudes in a small bathroom, they play hide and seek in the sleeping car, and every surface aboard the train becomes a landing spot for breaking bones and skulls.

And Amrit is breaking a lot of bones and skulls as his shift from defensive to aggressive, from controlled authority to animalistic rage, leaves a trail of bodies both on the train and tossed casually off along the journey. This turn from honorable man to monstrous avenger is a key element at play here, and while Kill can easily be enjoyed as a purely thrilling action film, Bhat’s exploring themes of vengeance, loss, and mankind’s endless cycle of violence in a way that feels fresh. We’ve seen Amrit’s journey before, but the film gives almost as attention to the bad guys’ emotional travels.

Thugs and henchmen in films are almost always nameless men there only to be killed by the hero, but here we’re given brief snippets of conversations between dozens of men dropping names and connections. It’s quickly made clear that the men are all from the same small village, that they rob trains to help support their families, and that many of them are even related. Why is that important and special? Because as Amrit tears his way through them, survivors are often left to mourn and cry over their deaths. It’s a captivating sight, grown men — the “villains” of the film — sobbing at the sight of their physically destroyed friends and family members.

As is fitting for the genre, Lakshya does good work as our muscled hero even as he’s outshined by the villains. Juval is wonderfully sleazy and sociopathic as the young upstart looking to take over his family’s criminal enterprise, and Ashish Vidyarthi gives a fantastic counterpoint as the young man’s father, a weathered and tired old man who carries a respected weight amongst the crew. They approach the problem of Amrit differently, but the end result is destined to be the same.

Kill is just a great time at the movies — hopefully you’re able to catch it in theaters, but it’ll still be a real ripper on your television at home. From the propulsive momentum and brutal beatdowns, to the high cost of revenge and some fun guitar riffs when certain characters appear on screen, it’s a simple action movie plot executed with style, sensory delights, and lots of blood. Lots, and lots of blood. Here’s hoping we get a whole franchise with titles like Kill Again, Kill Some More, Kill ’em til They’re Dead, Kill the Killer, One Last Kill

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.