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Kill: Karan Johar oversold this one; the John Wick and Raid comparisons are unearned | Bollywood News

July 10, 20248 Mins Read


When the wheelchair-bound Dharmendra suddenly regains the ability to walk in Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, seemingly through the sheer power of love, it is as good a gotcha moment that you can find in Hindi cinema. Having swept you away with the unabashed charm of his filmmaking, Johar practically had you eating out of the palm of his hand. But you’re going have a far more difficult time suspending disbelief in Kill, the new action movie co-produced by the director, for whom this is about as drastic a creative deviation as a Shakti Kapoor movie would be for Christopher Nolan.

Funnily enough, Kill’s opening few minutes appear to be a hat-tip to the Dharma-style romantic dramas of the past, as our suave hero Amrit — an army commando played by newcomer Lakshya — boards a train from Ranchi to New Delhi with a vague plan to derail his girlfriend Tulika’s arranged marriage to a man she doesn’t approve of. She’s on the train as well, along with her wealthy, gangster-adjacent father, her mother, and her younger sister. Played by Tanya Maniktala, Tulika forbids Amrit from doing something stupid, as she gleefully accepts his proposal in perhaps the least romantic place on Earth: an Indian Railways train toilet — a hellhole that people generally avoid even for its actual purpose, let alone staging pivotal life moments in.

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kill movie Lakshya, in a still from Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s Kill.

Why Amrit would pick a literal toilet as the venue for his proposal is all you’re thinking as he pops the question. But this isn’t the only time that Kill positively challenges you to remain invested in its plot, which is straightforward on paper — bandits board the train, one thing leads to another, and mayhem ensues — but so confounding in its execution that you’ll probably need multiple charts and diagrams to wrap your head around it. No movie set in a single location — in this case, a train — should be this confusing. But Kill actively nudges you to ask questions that you ideally shouldn’t. Like, why has nobody thought to stop the train during this hijack, or worse, why is a family of millionaires taking the Rajdhani Express in the first place.

Written and directed by Nikhil Nagesh Bhat, Kill was already drawing comparisons to the John Wick and Raid movies prior to its release. And it’s certainly understandable why people would be reminded of those acclaimed action hits while watching Amrit beat down scores of goons in Kill, first to defend innocent passengers from the marauding robbers, and then to exact brutal vengeance when Tulika — surprise, surprise — is killed by their leader, Fani. Played by the excellent Raghav Juyal, Fani is a flamboyant young man with a chip on his shoulder and unaddressed daddy issues. Juyal’s performance stands out to such a degree that you could be convinced that they hired a separate writer only for him, because the rest of the dialogue is functional at best.

Festive offer

But coming back to the point, the revenge plot alone isn’t what makes the John Wick movies special. Nor is The Raid’s single-location setting the only reason why it became such an incredible crossover hit. Those movies rewrote the grammar of action filmmaking, favouring unbroken combat sequences over the frenetic style popularised by the Jason Bourne films some years earlier. But among the many casualties in Kill is the concept of film editing itself; the issue here isn’t the stunt choreography, but how Bhat films it.

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The action scenes in Kill are edited to within an inch of their life, almost as if Amrit himself is operating Final Cut Pro. They’re loud, indecipherable, and most problematically, repetitive. And it isn’t the script’s fault, really. It’s doing the right thing putting Amrit in a series of difficult scenarios, and inviting him to use the environment in inventive ways. Some ‘kills’ are actually quite exciting, as they should be. Look no further than Ashish Vidyarthi being sizzled like one of those shashliks in his vlogs. But because there’s no variety to how these scenes are filmed, it feels like you’re watching Amrit do the same thing over and over again. It’s the action movie equivalent of making Rahul and Anjali go on a dozen dates that don’t move their relationship forward in any meaningful way.


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The action in the John Wick films is graceful because it’s essentially a piece of synchronised performance art, uniting actors and camera operators in a delicate dance of death. To shoot one of the most memorable set-pieces in the Raid movies, crew members had to physically realign the flexible set in the middle of the shot, so that the scene could be filmed in an unbroken take. Everybody on those movies understood that visible cuts only decrease the realism of the stunt-work. Real life doesn’t have cuts. The haphazard shooting style in Kill does a disservice not only to the actors (whose faces you rarely see in the fight sequences), but also to the stunt performers (who must’ve memorised intricate choreography, only for it to be chopped to bits on screen).

Bhat’s first film, the very similar but much worse Apurva, had the same problems. He was equally at sea there, failing to utilise the confined setting to create any sort of claustrophobia. As with Apurva, which trapped its heroine in the ruins of an abandoned medieval town, Kill is unable to convey where the characters are in any given moment, where they need to be, and more importantly, the spots they need to avoid. There are no checkpoints that Amrit returns to; no toilets that he can briefly seek refuge in, no berths where he can lay in wait, no electric panels from where he can control everything inside the coach. But most egregiously, for a movie that is staged on a lateral plane, Kill makes it unreasonably difficult to understand where the villains are in relation to the hero. Does he have to make his way up the coaches or down? Are the hostages in front of him or behind him? We don’t know.

kill movie 1 Lakshya in a still from Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s Kill.

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Because Bhat shoots the action from both sides and above, you’re left with no idea if it’s taking place in coach A1 or A3 or inside Ashwini Vaishaw’s office. While this makes for an objectively dissatisfying cinematic experience, it also kneecaps the emotional beats. For instance, when Amrit declares that he will rescue Tulika’s sister Ahana, we aren’t really told where she actually is. We know that she’s with the goons, but it would’ve been so much more engaging if Kill had actually let us know what Amrit needs to do to get to her. Communicating basic information like, ‘Amrit needs to make his way through three coaches’, or, ‘There are 14 people between him and Ahana’, can go a long way in creating tension in movies like this.

What unfolds across the film’s two-hour run-time more chaotic than the viral Battle of Baghpat video from a couple of years ago, although a case can amusingly be made for Vidyarthi being Kill’s own version of the ‘Einstein Chacha’. Vidyarthi’s character is given clearer motivation than even Amrit, whose revenge mission turns into sadistic torture porn towards the end of the third act. He’s no longer killing in self-defence; as the movie rolls into its final destination, Amrit is ritualistically murdering his foes. It’s almost as if he’s beginning to enjoy himself. A more interesting film would’ve examined his descent into blind cruelty with a little more care; forget admiring his actions, in its final moments, you wonder if Amrit was the right guy for Tulika at all.

Post Credits Scene is a column in which we dissect new releases every week, with particular focus on context, craft, and characters. Because there’s always something to fixate about once the dust has settled.

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Rohan Naahar is an assistant editor at Indian Express online. He covers pop-culture across formats and mediums. He is a ‘Rotten Tomatoes-approved’ critic and a member of the Film Critics Guild of India. He previously worked with the Hindustan Times, where he wrote hundreds of film and television reviews, produced videos, and interviewed the biggest names in Indian and international cinema. At the Express, he writes a column titled Post Credits Scene, and has hosted a podcast called Movie Police.

You can find him on X at @RohanNaahar, and write to him at rohan.naahar@indianexpress.com. He is also on LinkedIn and Instagram. … Read More

First uploaded on: 10-07-2024 at 08:07 IST



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