Kill Pushes A Simple Revenge Story to Its Absolute Limit

This one-location thriller knows exactly what it wants to say. It just takes a while to reach its destination.

A man with a bloodied face holds a knife, looking intense, seated in a dimly lit, chaotic environmen...
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Revenge thrillers benefit the most from a simple premise. A guy can lose the one thing he’s ever cared about — be it his girl, his dignity, or even his dog — and that’s typically enough to justify a few hours of visceral, nonstop mayhem. There’s naturally something to be said for the way these films depict brutality without blinking an eye, but the best actioners still tout a kind of catharsis you can’t find anywhere else.

Director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat understands all of the above, and his latest thriller, Kill, is a textbook example of revenge done right. The film cherry picks tropes from Indian cinema and turns them on their head, delivering the kind of violence that can only be matched by something like John Wick or, more recently, Dev Patel’s Monkey Man. Fists and elbows crack down on bones, knives and machetes slash through skin and sinew, and an effortlessly cool hero delivers a masterclass in cruelty. Kill understands the assignment, even if it can rely a bit too heavily on formula: It’s a scrappy, one-location thriller that gets in and out in just over 100 minutes, and won’t fail to leave an impression.

Kill’s biggest strength may lie in its efficiency. It doesn’t waste much time laying out its conflict or introducing the players. We have our stalwart hero, Amrit (Lakshya), a hypercompetent commando whose secret girlfriend Tulika (Tanya Maniktala) has been engaged to the son of a very wealthy family. Her dad is one of the most well-connected businessmen around, but that prestige obviously makes it difficult for Tulika to pursue the life she wants. Amrit isn’t waiting around to ask for her hand in marriage either, instead hatching a plan to whisk his sweetheart away on a night train to New Delhi. It’s a brazen idea — but when a group of bandits cut the train’s emergency brakes and stage a violent robbery, he’s forced to put his plans on hold.

A bad situation gets progressively worse when the leader of this gang (a thoroughly entertaining Raghav Juyal) sets his sights on Tulika and identifies her dad as a potential bounty. That turns Amrit and his right-hand man Viresh (Abhishek Cauhan) into full-on vigilantes. They do what they can to protect innocent passengers from wave after wave of bandits, all in an effort to reach Tulika and her family. Inevitably, their adversaries will take their enterprise a step too far, and push Amrit into sicko mode.

Kill is starkly split into two acts: before Amrit loses his shit, and after. The action on both sides is thoroughly entertaining, choreographed by Korean action director Se-yeong Oh (Snowpiercer, Avengers: Age of Ultron). But once Amrit thoroughly snaps, his competent, non-lethal takedowns give way to truly brutal, relentless kills. He’s bludgeoning henchmen with fire extinguishers. He’s taking knives to throats in ways that make Monkey Man feel like a stroll in the park. The lines quickly blur between who’s really the villain here — and Kill is clearly invested in the question of how a hero is made. You’ll root for Amrit no matter what, but Bhat also goes out of his way to humanize his villains beyond callous punching bags.

Lakshya is brutally brilliant as Amrit, but he’s often tasked with picking up Kill’s narrative slack.


Funnily enough, our gang of bandits is also a family clan. That means that, whenever Amrit sends a dead henchman their way, it’s somebody’s father, nephew, or brother. It also creates one opportunity for revenge after the next, but it does grow a bit repetitive before too long. Though Kill has its action down pat, it does lack a sense of narrative variety. Like its characters, it’s caught in an endless loop, shuffling from one near-identical train car and into another. Cinematographer Rafey Mehmood does spice things up visually by playing with color and shadow, but those creative swings are too few and far between.

Kill is still thoroughly entertaining, especially in its more punishing moments. Its kinetic action does make up for a simpler story; Lakshya is also formidable as the steely Amrit. In the end, though, this one-location thriller takes a bit too long to reach its destination, perpetuating a brutal cycle without a clear end in sight.

Kill opens in theaters on July 4.

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