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Kill

A movie theater would probably be the best place to see “Kill,” a bloody Hindi-language Indian beat-em-up set on a train to New Delhi. The movie features a handful of visually dynamic fight scenes, choreographed by action directors Se-yeong Oh and Parvez Sheikh (“Fighter,” “War”), directed by Nikhil Nagesh Bhat, and shot by cinematographer Rafey Mehmood. “Kill” also features a threadbare plot and a few too many lulls between action scenes, so you might need to be seated before and focused on a big screen to see it at its best.

Thankfully, these blemishes aren’t so significant as to deflate the movie’s prevailing mood. You might still leave the theater wishing you cared more about Amrit (Lakshya), a one-man-army commando, and Tulika (Tanya Maniktala), a mostly defenseless woman on whose behalf Amrit creams a few dozen heavies. A rowdy audience and/or loud sound system will likely give theatergoers the extra boost needed to keep this helium-light genre exercise moving.

“Kill” still feels long at 105 minutes. Produced by Bollywood figurehead Karan Johar, “Kill” skimps on many of the flamboyant melodramatic touches that have come to define contemporary Indian cinema for Western audiences. Moreover, there’s barely a conventional reason to root for Amrit as he tears through car after car of indistinct baddies. He meets but does not sweep Tulika off her feet after she celebrates her engagement—to someone else. She wants to show respect to her father (Harsh Chhaya), who, like her fiancé, disappears too quickly to matter. 

There are additional supporting characters, like Viresh (Abhishek Chauhan), Amrit’s best buddy and fellow National Security Guardsman, and Fani (Raghav Juyal), a brash young kidnapper who gets hung up on Tulika. They’re ultimately neither so interesting nor as important as the sheer spectacle of watching Lakshya and Chauhan flip, tumble, and hurl themselves around various train compartments. 

Oh and Sheikh’s choreography gets a better showcase here than in their recent Yash Raj Spy Universe collaborations, like “Tiger 3,” whose action scenes were more focused on action figure poses and computer-generated mayhem. “Kill” frequently delivers the sort of action one might expect from a movie with an action-verb title, though one sometimes wishes that more time was spent with the train’s many other anxious passengers.

In theory, you don’t need to worry about the generic setup that Bhat and co-writer Ayesha Syed provide. Then again, several dramatic moments, both major and minor, drag when they should coast to the next big sequence. A handful of action scenes feel light and even look monotonous, partly given the limitations of the movie’s primary setting. These set pieces tend to be brisk and engaging but aren’t so relentless or intense that they’re entirely disarming.

The brawl that comes about a half hour into the movie feels like a wasted opportunity, despite strong choreography, given the distracting presence of other commuters, who aren't cowering in the background but rather in close proximity to Lakshya and his opponents. A handful of crucial moments, where Amrit rallies or remembers why he’s fighting, look more like well-mounted rehearsal footage. You don’t need to be a Johar diehard to notice that an extra dash of melodrama is missing here, though his most recent rom-com, “Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani,” is worth your time. 

“Kill”’s high-concept scenario is mostly a fun idea in search of better execution. To their credit, the on-camera actors look good when they work each other over, and the filmmakers do a fine job of not only keeping pace with their performers but also cutting their fights in such a way that you never have to strain your neck to see whatever’s just out of frame. The sound design also keeps a certain ambient tension up, and the spare use of music on the soundtrack keeps you wondering about what might be coming up next. Better yet, the blood and gore that erupts from a range of good and bad characters is also effectively surprising, at least on a moment-to-moment basis.

“Kill” often moves well enough that you might not care about the various bumps along the way until the end credits roll, by which point you’ll hopefully be too high on adrenaline to care. In thinking about why audiences should prioritize movie-watching in movie theaters, one shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the pure lizard-brain pleasures of watching a no-frills crowd-pleaser deliver exactly what its title promises on as big a screen as you can find. Isn’t that what you crave from a good beat-the-heat summer movie, beyond air conditioning and concession stand treats? “Kill” tics off most of the essential boxes for a good popcorn flick, making it easy to resist but harder to pass up.

Simon Abrams

Simon Abrams is a native New Yorker and freelance film critic whose work has been featured in The New York TimesVanity FairThe Village Voice, and elsewhere.

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Film Credits

Kill movie poster

Kill (2024)

Rated R

115 minutes

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