• Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Movie Curiosities

The online diary of an aspiring movie nerd

It’s a blood-soaked action movie set on a train, and the title is Kill. Nothing else, just the one word. Kill. I can’t tell if the filmmakers are crazy or stupid, but they’ve sure got brass.

But then came the news that Team John Wick had been tapped to produce an English-language remake, days before the Indian original had hit screens. I hasten to add that Lionsgate — the studio responsible for the John Wick movies — was also the studio that picked up Kill for western distribution. On one level, it would make sense if the Lionsgate brass were skittish about the viability of the John Wick franchise after killing off the title character, and they’re looking for other avenues of keeping 87Eleven involved on some other franchise in case the spinoffs don’t pan out.

Unfortunately, this news reframes Kill as a John Wick knockoff. After all, it’s a bloody action movie about a lone killer getting torn to shreds as he slaughters his way through an army of nameless faceless bad guys. Hell, the film was even made and marketed as a revenge thriller, with our action lead motivated by a dead romantic interest. Not that I begrudge an Indian company — or anyone else — trying to ride some coattails, that’s just the nature of the business. But it’s not a favorable comparison by any means.

Our villain for the evening is Fani (Raghav Juyal), the greedy and reckless hotheaded son of Beni (Ashish Vidyarthi). They and their massive extended family of brothers and cousins and uncles comprise a gang of bandits who hijack a train with the intention of robbing all the passengers. By a cruel twist of fate, one of those passengers happens to be Baldeo Singh Thakur (Harsh Chhaya), a wealthy communications CEO. So of course our band of thieves get the bright idea to try and hold Thakur and his family for ransom.

But there’s another complication.

Enter Captain Amrit Rathod and his comrade-in-arms, Viresh Chatwal (respectively played by newcomer Lakshya and Abhishek Chauhan), both of whom are highly trained military commandos currently on leave. To make a long and convoluted story short, Amrit and Thakur’s eldest daughter (Tulika, played by Tanya Maniktala) are star-crossed lovers and Amrit has arrived to steal his beloved away from her disapproving father. But then Fani gets greedy and we’re off to the races.

Obviously, the action is the big selling point here. And it’s brutal modern fight sequences on a train, of course that sounds fucking awesome. And indeed, the movie does have some stupidly awesome kills and stunts throughout. Unfortunately, while the editors are doing their best to compensate, the camerawork and stunts are aggressively limited by the claustrophobic setting. More importantly, the costume design doesn’t do anywhere near enough to distinguish one blood-soaked guy from another in all the dogpile.

With action cinema, the number one most important factor is simplicity. All the most spectacular stunts and kills in history don’t amount to shit if we can’t follow who’s the good guy, who’s the bad guy, and why they’re not getting along. And all of that has to be so aggressively simple that we don’t have to waste time thinking about it — after all, when fists and weapons are flying so quickly, every second counts.

Given the outlandish nature of Indian cinema in general (RRR, anyone?), you’d think that would make a natural fit for an over-the-top bloodbath in the John Wick style. Unfortunately, American action films are typically exaggerated in a way that’s brooding and played totally straight, while Indian cinema is more inclined toward jingoistic melodrama. These are two different sensibilities that don’t really mesh well together.

Another complicating factor is baked into the premise itself: The recurring theme of family. Remember, our hapless army of cannon fodder is comprised of a massive extended family, so every corpse is somebody else’s son or brother or cousin or whatever. Which means in very short order, we’ve got at least half a dozen nameless faceless background characters taking up precious screen time to mourn and avenge their fallen.

By the end of this movie, everyone — the good guys, the bad guys, the innocent bystanders, freaking EVERYONE — is out to avenge some dead loved one. At one point, we’ve got two minor supporting characters screaming at each other “Tell me why you killed my father! Tell me why you killed my father!” “Tell me why you killed my son! Tell me why you killed my son!” as they’re trying to kill each other. I get that motivation is important, but this is ridiculous. It’s not even leveraged into any kind of greater thematic point, it’s simply too much convoluted noise getting in the way.

Which brings me to the issue of pacing.

I’m afraid I have to apologize for the MINOR SPOILERS, but there’s simply no getting around this. You see… Tulika dies. The main love interest is quite brutally and graphically slain. Not that the fridging is necessarily an issue — regrettable though it is, it comes with the genre. And I will give Tuli points for putting up a fight as best she can under the circumstances.

No, the big problem here is that she dies at the 45-minute mark. Halfway into the movie. That’s way, way too late.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Every story boils down to the simple question of whether the protagonist will get what they want, and the story is over as soon as that question gets a definitive yes-or-no answer. The first act firmly establishes that the protagonist wants to live happily ever after with this love interest, and she’s gone with no replacement by the halfway point. This throws the entire movie out of whack.

Sure, Amrit wants revenge. News flash: So does everyone else in this picture. This whole movie is loaded with one-note characters who are only out to avenge somebody else who got killed in the course of this train robbery that happened for no reason whatsoever. The only minor exception is Fani, the character who stays involved out of sheer greed, and even he gets a few extended monologues about the commando who killed over 40 of his cousins. It all gets so repetitive and monotonous and it doesn’t lead anywhere, contributing further to the question of whom I should be rooting for and why I should care.

I’m genuinely sorry to say that I can’t sign off on Kill. The plot is too convoluted, there are too many one-note characters who are all stuck on the exact same “I’ll have my vengeance!!!” note, and even the costume design is too homogenous to make the fight scenes as fun as they should be. I can appreciate the effort and creativity that went into the more spectacular kills, but it doesn’t amount to much with such a convoluted and overly noisy plot.

It’s like someone tried their own spin on the American action revenge bloodfest, but without much sense for how and why those movies work on a narrative level. I don’t know what got lost in translation, but somebody didn’t know enough to keep the background extras nameless and faceless, much less to fridge the love interest in the first act (or maybe even the climax) instead of the halfway point. And it’s especially hard to recommend this when we’ve got other and better recent movies in this lane, even without the John Wick branding. (Sisu comes immediately to mind.)

Sorry, but it’s a no for me.

By Curiosity Inc.

I hold a B.S. in Bioinformatics, the only one from Pacific University's Class of '09. I was the stage-hand-in-chief of my high school drama department and I'm a bass drummer for the Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers. I dabble in video games and I'm still pretty good at DDR. My primary hobby is going online for upcoming movie news. I am a movie buff, a movie nerd, whatever you want to call it. Comic books are another hobby, but I'm not talking about Superman or Spider-Man or those books that number in the triple-digits. I'm talking about Watchmen, Preacher, Sandman, etc. Self-contained, dramatic, intellectual stories that couldn't be accomplished in any other medium. I'm a proud son of Oregon, born and raised here. I've been just about everywhere in North and Central America and I love it right here.

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