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Kill is not the straightforward action film you think it is

Kill begins like any other Bollywood film: a close-up of the attractive male lead, a phone conversation with a beautiful young woman, a love story that is obviously already in the making.

But Kill is not a love story – in fact, it is one of India's most brutal, violent and bloody action films that turns notions of good and evil on their head and exceeds audience expectations.

Indian actor Lakshya, in his first film role, plays Amrit, an Indian Army commando. The film follows him as he tries to stop the arranged marriage of his secret lover Tulika (Tanya Maniktala). When Tulika and her family return to New Delhi after their reluctant engagement party, Amrit and fellow commando Viresh (Abhishek Chauhan) board the same train to bring Amrit's girlfriend back.

So far, so simple – until a gang of dacoits (armed robbers) come on board. Dozens of men threaten, abuse and loot innocent passengers with weapons, machetes and much more.

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Led by the cold-hearted Fani (played brilliantly by Raghav Juyal), the crew smoothly executes their plan, which is organized from afar by the gang's leader, Fani's father. What they didn't plan for, however, are two military-trained soldiers who are hell-bent on protecting Amrit's one true love.

What follows could have been a simple case of good (Amrit, Viresh) versus evil (Fani and his bandits), but Kill takes an interesting direction and deviates from the usual action movie plot laid out in the trailer. Written and directed by Nikhil Nagesh Bhat, the film throws up surprising surprises and questions, shifting the audience's loyalties as the train rumbles along.

As Amrit and Viresh make their way through the unsuspecting bandits, bones are broken and heads fall heavily to the floor of the carriage. It's a gruesome attack that splatters the train with blood and escalates when Fani attacks Tulika at knifepoint.

This move comes amid the attack on his gang, which is made up of uncles, cousins, fathers and sons. What was planned as a simple robbery has become a mass murder of the family, and now each broken neck is no longer just an interchangeable petty criminal, but a blood relative to mourn.

As the stakes rise, the violence escalates and Fani opposes his father's plan to kill passengers. One key death feels particularly cruel, exemplifying Fani's recklessness and sending Amrit into a fierce rage. It is this catalyst that leads to Kill's most murderous rampage.

Lakshya as Amrit, Kill film

Lionsgate

KillThe fight scenes in don't mince words, so to speak – many viewers will watch behind closed doors as hammers smash into faces and knives gouge out eyes.

Most of these deaths are collateral damage, but Amrit's sheer, brute force gradually goes beyond what is acceptable. A fire extinguisher hits a character's head more times than is necessary to immobilize them, and in one particularly memorable scene, Amrit sets a character's head on fire from the inside out.

Our once-noble hero resorts to hanging his conquests in the aisle of a train carriage and forcing the bandits to squeeze through the curtains of their loved ones departed. It's a move we expect from a villain in a movie, and Amrit seems to be getting closer and closer to it.

His opponent Fani, our typical villain, has his own struggles to face. His merciless cruelty seems to stem from a desire for approval and love from his criminal father. Bhat describes Fani as “power-driven and riddled with misogyny” who uses this robbery gone wrong as a chance to prove himself and impress with an improvised kidnapping plan.

But despite his clever thinking, his father's respect is clearly not there. This realization hurts Fani more than any beating, and since most of his family members are now dead, he has nothing left to lose.

Raghav Juyal in Kill

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In a final showdown between our two fighters, Fani looks at the destruction Amrit has caused and asks him, “I killed four of your people, you killed forty of my people. Who kills like that? You're not a hero, you're a fucking monster.”

In Hindi, this line means that Amrit is being asked whether he is a “rakshak” (protector) or a “rakshas” (demon), a comment that could also bring the real Indian Army into question.

Kill uses Amrit as a means to ask whether the service protects all people or only serves the political elite and their divisive policies, and last but not least, whether we can trust soldiers not to abuse their power.

This is a departure from the usual portrayal of the armed forces in Bollywood as champions of good. Indian films tend to depict pro-government and anti-Pakistan sentiments, reflecting India's difficult political situation and increasing military activity. Given the recent shift to the right, military personnel are portrayed on screen as heroes, regardless of their behavior.

Lakshya as Amrit, Kill film

Lionsgate

Kill breaks the black and white principle and classifies heroism and villainy on a sliding scale.

Although the film is set up as a classic tale of good versus evil, it instead challenges the audience to consider whether Amrit's actions are truly justified and whether there is a path to redemption for Fani.

KillThe final scene may not be for everyone, but these deeper themes are a refreshing – and bloody – addition to the Bollywood action canon.

4 stars

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Kill is now in theaters.

Portrait photo by Isabella Silvers

Isabella is a freelance journalist who has written about young women's issues, entertainment, TV and film, South Asian representation, mental health, dating and much more. She can be found in ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Prima, Digital Spy, Women's Health and Harper's Bazaar and was named one of MediaWeek, PPA and We Are The City's 30 Under 30. She was also shortlisted for Workplace Hero at the Investing In Ethnicity Awards and Hero of the Year at the European Diversity Awards. Follow Isabella on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.