The Midnight Madness section of the Toronto International Film Festival is always the place where the most bonkers, outrageous, crazy and wild movies premiere. This year, the honour goes to KILL, a Karan Johar-produced action entertainer that introduces a new kind of genre to Bollywood. This KILL review will focus on why the movie works for the masses, and also what left me wanting a little bit more.
KILL Premiered At TIFF’s Midnight Madness
KILL is a massive action blockbuster that doesn’t just doesn’t stop. Army Commandos Amrit (Lakshya) and Viresh board an Indian Express train to reunite Amrit with his girlfriend Tulika (Tanya Maniktala), after her engagement to someone else against her wishes. After a small but sweet moment with each other, everything goes wrong. Robbers board the train and start taking all the passengers’ belongings at gunpoint. Things get worse when they recognize Tulika’s family as being very affluent, and decide to kidnap them for ransom.
Being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and feeling a sense of duty to protect the innocents, Amrit and Viresh kick into gear. What follows is an escalating and insane thrill ride of close-quarters combat and action extravaganza. And that’s really what this KILL review will focus on, the fact that the movie is just a relentless action entertainer. Expecting anymore would be unrealistic. But more on that later.
This KILL Review Is Spoiler Free
KILL is very technically proficient. Naturally, an action movie set on a train sounds like a challenge to shoot and produce, however, director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat expertly directs this complicated menagerie of awesomeness in a very capable way. There are set pieces and sequences that are shot so well that you can’t help but wonder how the team achieved this.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for our exclusive interview with KILL director Bhat, where he discusses just how he achieved those shots.
The action choreography from Se-Yeong Oh (Snowpiercer) and Parvez Shaikh (War) is spectacular. You would think they would run out of ways to beat people up in a confined train, but Bhat and his find new and innovative ways to keep things interesting. For the most part, the movie works as a crowd-pleasing action movie that is a non-stop thrill ride. But there are some parts of the movie where I wanted more.
High Stakes Action With A Lack Of Story
The one aspect where I found KILL to be wanting is in its story. While the idea is pretty basic—people in trouble, heroes protect and kill bad guys— there’s a love story angle that didn’t feel properly developed. The fast-paced action comes at the expense of proper character development. So when certain emotional moments come along, they feel unearned and have less impact than intended. But ultimately, like I mentioned before, expecting layers and nuances of story within a movie that is meant to be a thrill ride, is probably not the best idea. Especially given that the experience is still an enjoyable one. And if we can give Extraction 2 a pass on a flimsy story, this KILL review should be no different.
KILL Review Discusses How It Subverts The Usual Action Movie Tropes
Despite a light story, there are elements of KILL that ground the story in realism, much more than the usual Bollywood action movie. While the premise sounds basic, Bhat, who also wrote the story and screenplay, makes sure that the characters of Amrit and Viresh aren’t just your typical Bollywood hero archetypes. They are Army Commandos, highly trained and have sworn a duty to protect people. So their actions after that point make absolute sense. This philosophy is also reflected in their fighting style. Initially, they are not just kicking bad guy butt, but disarming, shielding innocents and subduing the bad guys. It’s not until later that things escalate.
And while it might not seem like a point worth mentioning in a KILL review, it’s a huge sticking point for me in action movies. Where the random boring protagonist is in a position to become a hero, with flimsy reasoning, and then he rises to the challenge. Whereas here, it’s literally their job, and their restraint and professionalism initially clearly display that as well.
Raghav Juyal Stuns In A Break-Out Performance In KILL
KILL is also worth watching because of its performances. The debut of Lakshya as Amrit sees the actor display an impressive range of talent when it comes to stunts and action choreography. In true John Wick style, Amrit doesn’t say a lot but lets his fists do the talking for him. It’s hard to judge the young actor’s debut beyond that, given that the story doesn’t let him do more than the amazing physical performance he puts in. KILL makes an action start out of Lakshya. But I do hope that he gets more opportunities to showcase his non-action range, as well.
One of the stand-out performances of KILL though, has to be the main villain. Raghav Juyal plays Fani in a major breakthrough role, and man, he is disturbingly terrifying. And the reason he stands out so much is because Fani is such a regular guy. He’s charming, unassuming, and a little obnoxious, so you never expect him to be deadly. Juyal plays Fani as a sweet guy, who is clearly unhinged at certain parts. This adds to the contrast to the physical disparity between Amrit and Fani but still makes Fani a formidable foe for Amrit despite that. And Juyal steals every scene he is in.
KILL Makes An Action Star Out Of Debutant Lakshya
Overall, while I wasn’t too invested in the story, which made certain emotional moments lack a punch, KILL is still worth a watch. It’s not in the same league as more recent action films like Pathaan, but it’s also not trying to be. Using The Raid as inspiration, KILL is just a thrill ride from start to finish, and the effort they put into those aspects shows as such. It’s a crowd-pleaser and an action movie that is very upfront about what it is.
While the graphic gore and violence may be challenging for some traditional Bollywood audiences, fans of international cinema like Raid or Snowpiercer will love there there is finally a Bollywood movie that doesn’t pull any punches.
KILL premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival 2023.
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TIFF '23: KILL Launches A New Star And A New Genre For Bollywood
- Acting - 7.5/107.5/10
- Cinematography/Visual Effects - 7.5/107.5/10
- Plot/Screenplay - 7/107/10
- Setting/Theme - 8/108/10
- Watchability - 7.5/107.5/10
- Rewatchability - 8.5/108.5/10