Toronto 2023 Review: KILL, An Army of One Versus an Army of Train Thieves

Editor, News; Toronto, Canada (@Mack_SAnarchy)
Toronto 2023 Review: KILL, An Army of One Versus an Army of Train Thieves

Amrit returns from army deployment to find many, frantic messages on his phone. The love of his life, Tulika, with whom he has had a secret relationship with, has been set up in an arranged marriage by her father. The family has boarded an overnight train to New Delhi to complete this arrangement. Amrit and an army buddy, Viresh, set off on a mission of love and get on the same train. Unbeknownst to everyone, a group of bandits have boarded the train with plans to rob everyone on board. When Amrit and his buddy intervene, the situation escalates with deadly consequences and soon they are fighting a band of 40 armed train robbers car by car in close-quarters combat. 

If we did not know that writer/director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat had pulled from his own experience when a train he was riding on was robbed by ‘dacoits’, these train bandits, we would have jokingly said something along the lines of, “Bhat watched Geoff Murphy's contribution to Steven Segal's magnum opus, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, and said to himself, 'Self. One day you're going to beat the crap out of this movie with your own version'.” That day is here. Et voila, Kill

Kidding aside, by all appearances it looks like Baht has taken a stab - let’s be honest, lot of stabs, so stabby - at the heroic bloodshed genre, starting with the motivation and melodrama central to classics of the genre, the works of masters like John Woo, Tsui Hark, and Johnnie To. Our heroes are bound by duty, as soldiers, to protect the innocent passengers on the train. Amrit is further motivated by the fact that the love of his life is on the train and in great danger as well. This plays out hard in the first act, but more about that further down. The theme of brotherhood also plays out between Amrit and his brother-in-arms, Viresh, as they tangle with the train robbers. 

We would also presume that when it came to planning out the action in the film Baht drew inspiration from the action and ultra-violence of Gareth Evans’ Raid series and Timo Tjahjanto’s The Night Comes For Us and Headshot. Oh, if you are looking for a violent action flick when Kill kicks into high gear the violence is spectacular. What we said before - lots of stabs, so stabby. Unlike the gold standards of heroic bloodshed from Hong Kong, Kill is nearly devoid of guns. All the thieves come on board armed with knives, and Amrit and Viresh were not planning on hosing down anyone with automatic gunfire on their trip to New Delhi. This makes for some awesome blade violence, blunt force trauma, and improvised weaponry from stuff hanging on or bolted to the walls. 

Sticking with an Asian-connection Baht employed the expertise of acton choreographers Se-yeong Oh (The Yellow SeaSnowpiercer) from Korea and Parvez Shaikh (SaahoWar) from India. Our own resident expert, Josh, could tell you more about Shaikh’s work (which we’ll have to go back to after the dust has settled) but who else knows combat on train better that Oh and his work on Snowpiercer? Then there was the sheer brutality in The Yellow Sea. Done! Sold! We know these movies, we know Oh’s work and how many times that work in the realm of cinematic violence has made us gasp and cry out with joy.

Some of the great action sequences in our time have been in close quarters. If you liked the elevator fight between Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian in Merantau, or the bathroom fight between Jet Li and Mike Lambert in Unleashed, and wanted more of that, rejoice because Kill is an embarrassment of riches. It’s all close-quarters combat, all the time. There’s no way around it. Physically impossible in fact. The train cars are what we understand to be called sleeper cars, a single aisle down the middle with benches and beds on either side. Here, there is no way to around your foe but through them and they have every intention of stopping you dead in your tracks. Literally, dead in your tracks. You just need to get to this moment in the film to see what you have always dreamed of made reality. Let us explain. 

We will admit that we were chomping at the bit for that explosion of violence to begin because of the melodrama around our star-crossed lovers took up a big chunk of time in the first act. Where is this audacious Indian action movie that we have heard so much about? We remind ourselves that it is the romance, his love for Tulika, which ultimately drives Amrit to violence. Sense of duty and justice are fine and dandy but gods help you if you lay a hand on his woman. As long as it takes for Kill to kick into high gear it is the melodramatic secret relationship that sucks us in, gives us something to emotionally grasp on to, that urges us to hope that Amrit saves the day. In short, patience is a virtue and yours will be rewarded in due time. The first act has to happen in order for your bloodlust to broil. When Amrit goes off, boy howdy does he go off. Kill greatly rewards you for your patience through the first act. 

We cannot draw a conclusion without talking about the main villain, Fani. Played by Raghav Juyal, he is one of those guys that your mom warns you about and one of the reasons why the words ‘utter’ and ‘bastard’ sometimes exist in the same breath. We are not going to say anything else about him other than, villain of the year, folks. Villain of the year.  

Having made it through the opening act we found ourselves white-knuckled with clenched teeth by the end of Kill. We realized then that we had bought what Bhat was selling us, a thrilling and brutal action experience. Kill’s slow build quickly tumbles out of control and headlong into one bloody exchange of blades and limbs after another. The violence is not fancy and intricate, but fast and harsh, with a survivor’s instinct at the forefront. It is kill or be killed on the night train to New Delhi. 

When there are no weapons within reach there is always a fire extinguisher nearby. Safety first, people. Safety first. 

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