Kill’s Trail of Mayhem: A Brutal Adventure on Rails

The tide has finally turned at Dharma Productions’ action department. Just months after delivering Yodha, which featured Sidharth Malhotra in a high-altitude brawl against plane hijackers, they bring us a more grounded yet relentlessly fierce effort: Kill. This latest venture, starring newcomer Lakshya in the leading role, is a 105-minute slugfest set on a moving train. If the film succeeds commercially and spawns a sequel — with an English-language remake already in the works — one can’t help but hope the makers will opt for scaling down rather than up. Picture Kill 2 unfolding within the confines of an autorickshaw during Mumbai’s torrential rains—a genuine bloodbath.

Under the direction of Nikhil Nagesh Bhat, Kill manages to strip away more excess fat than one would expect from a Dharma screenplay. This leaner narrative is perhaps influenced by co-producer Sikhya Entertainment, an edgier banner known for its international outlook. The story kicks off with Amrit (Lakshya), an NSG commando, attempting to unwind after a taxing assignment. However, he soon finds himself embroiled in a new mission involving Tulika (Tanya Maniktala), his girlfriend, who is on the verge of being forcibly engaged to another man by her controlling, affluent father (Harsh Chhaya). Determined to rescue her, Amrit dashes off to Ranchi with the intent to elope, only to be met with resistance. “Abort mission,” he abruptly alerts his army buddy, Viresh (Abhishek Chauhan), promising to regroup in Delhi for a safer escape plan.

As the story progresses, Tulika and her family board an overnight train bound for Delhi. Amrit, following close behind, manages to propose to her in the train’s washroom (“the commode smells nice”), before seeking refuge with Viresh in another compartment. The narrative gears up as a band of raggedy robbers, led by the psychotically lustful Fani (Raghav Juyal), board the train, sealing off four compartments and disabling the communication signals. The stage is thus set for a horrific ride as the robbers begin terrorizing and looting the passengers. This takes about 15 minutes to set up, marking the beginning of an intense series of fights.

Once Kill locks into its core, the action explodes into a spectacle unparalleled in recent Hindi cinema. The action is not only slick and frantic but propulsively engaging, thanks to the raw fight choreography and unembarrassing CGI. The confined compartments of the Indian Railways morph into a chaotic landscape for blood-soaked mayhem.

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. Action directors Se-Yeong Oh and Parvez Sheikh, veterans of expansive productions like War and Tiger 3, demonstrate remarkable inventiveness within these tight spaces. Notably, Se-Yeong previously worked on the Korean unit stunts for Snowpiercer. In Kill, the AC sleeper coach drapes transform into lethal traps, and the film brims with clever decoys and melee combat sequences. The robbers’ inventory of curved knives stands out as particularly gruesome.

Kill made its world debut in the Midnight Madness section at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2023. The promotional material hinted at an Indian Die Hard on a train, but Bhat’s vision expands this simple premise into something more akin to a Neo-Western. The narrative reveals that the robbers are, in fact, blood relatives, adding an emotional layer that elevates the plot to a macabre waltz of revenge. Ketan Sodha’s music introduces Western inflections, complementing the film’s tone. Additionally, Fani’s bizarre habit of shouting out Tulika’s father’s full name — “Baldev Singh Thakur” — evokes memories of 1960s daku (bandit) movies.

Lakshya, heavily touted as Hindi cinema’s next ‘killing machine’, brings a sweaty, intense presence to the screen. He avoids the athleticism associated with stars like Tiger Shroff and Vidyut Jammwal, opting instead for a more grounded, abrasive fighting style. However, his dialogue delivery lacks iconic catchphrases, with no equivalent to “Yippee-Ki-Yay, mother***” or “I have come to chew bubble gum and kick ass.” Instead, the wisecracks come from Juyal’s character, Fani, who engages with an enjoyably loose-limbed and rapacious demeanor.

As Amrit storms back and forth on this train of death, beheading foes, smashing skulls, and setting heads aflame, one can’t help but ponder if Kill is the type of recruitment advertisement any armed force would want from Bollywood. The film stands as a blood-soaked genre piece that meticulously satisfies its own — and the audience’s — bloodlust. Incidentally, Kill releases 20 years after Farhan Akhtar’s film Lakshya, which approached the narrative of a soldier as a coming-of-age story. But that was 2004, an entirely different era and a different Lakshya.

Kill will be available in theatres starting July 5.

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