Sitges 2023: Nikhil Bhat’s Action Film ‘Kill’ is as Incredible as ‘The Raid’

Sitges 2023: Nikhil Bhat’s Action Film ‘Kill’ is as Incredible as ‘The Raid’

by Alex Billington
October 9, 2023

Kill Review

The film absolutely RULES!! All aboard the next evolution in action cinema. I can do my best to describe the exhilaration of watching this film in the biggest auditorium at the 2023 Sitges Film Festival, but no words can truly express these emotions properly. It’s a must-see-for-yourself and be totally blown away cinematic experience. Any and every action lover should be lining up for its opening already. 12 years ago, The Raid changed action movies forever premiering at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival (here’s my original review from back then). After the totally killer The Raid 2 and many other rip-offs and imitations, we now have a movie that takes that trapped-in-one-place concept and pushes it further again. Just as I said in my 2011 review, “holy shit I haven’t seen an action movie this good in years!” I’ll repeat that again for Kill, an Indian action movie from filmmaker Nikhil Bhat. This film completely blew me away, leaving me high on the adrenaline of this extraordinary battle set entirely inside a moving train. It is a whole new landmark in action cinema.

Sitges hosted a special double feature screening event for Kill at the festival this year. It was presented back-to-back with a brand new 4K restoration of Evans’ The Raid. The screening for both films actually began at 1AM, a middle-of-the-night “Xtreme” double feature. Gareth Evans flew all the way to Spain to introduce his brand new 4K upscaled “proper” version of the film that originally put him on the map. He explained to the audience that he was unable to be in Sitges when The Raid first played there in 2011, but he was very happy to return in honor of this anniversary event. The new version we all watched was 4K update, with improved sound and color, as Evans joked about how he “fucked up” the color the first time around because he was a young filmmaker at the time. It looked better than ever, and blew me away just as it did 12 years ago. The Raid is unquestionably one of the best action movies ever. I remember watching it in 2011 thinking I have never seen action like this, so visceral and thrilling to watch. Crazy how much it has influenced since. I also remember going to see The Raid 2 world premiere at Sundance 2014 in Eccles. We all lost our shit then, too.

Jump ahead a decade and yes it’s true – we all lost our shit watching Kill, too. At least that’s the vibe I got from everyone awake at 3AM in Sitges watching this incredible action film. It didn’t matter how late it was, or how tired anyone was, everyone in there was cheering, applauding, shouting, and vibrating in their seat out of sheer joy from the totally awesome experience of watching Kill unfold before our eyes. Yeah it plays perfectly alongside The Raid. There’s obvious influence, almost as if writer / director Nikhil Bhat watched The Raid years ago and exclaimed, “I also need to do this, but in India.” Years later, it’s finished and finally ready to rock us, and holy [every expletive you can think of] it kicks copious amounts of ass. The two films compliment each other because Kill actually feels like a proper evolution, not a derivation, following in the footsteps of Iko Uwais and The Raid, then jumping onto a train to show us what comes next. It’s easily one of the best train action movies ever, setting a new precedent. Just as The Raid influenced action cinema for years after it premiered, I have a feeling Kill is going to influence the action genre for years to come as well.

Nikhil Bhat’s Kill follows a couple of innocent passengers who board a train heading to New Delhi. The train soon becomes a combat battleground as a pair of commandos face an army of invading bandits. Super hunky Indian model Laksh Lalwani (also known simply as “Lakshya“) stars as Amrit, along with his loyal friend Viresh (played by Abhishek Chauhan), both highly trained commandos from the Indian Army. There’s a hokey love story worked into the plot, which isn’t really necessary, but this is an Indian movie so it actually kind of is necessary. And it sets up the emotional stakes, which are important as the rest of the insane action plays out. It quickly shifts gears when a group of no-nonsense robbers hop onboard. There are a lot of them, and they have a hierarchy of leaders like Italy’s mafia. Inspired by real-life train robberies, it is one of the first ultra violent Indian films – and it delivers on that front with endless amounts of gore and brutality. The two commandos, and a family they’re following, get in the way of the criminal’s initial plans then all hell breaks loose on this journey to New Delhi. Part of the way through there’s a remarkable title card drop and the film explodes into violence as everyone fights everyone until the train finally rolls in to its destination.

An important aspect of great action cinema is great characters to go along with all the kick ass action. The Raid is damn good with this – rewatching it that night reminded me that all of the main characters have a distinct personality, even the bad guys. They’re not just mindless meatbags ready to kill or be killed, there’s something fierce driving them, something that defines them beyond their violent intentions. That’s the same case here with Kill, though turned up a few notches – there are so many unique characters it’s hard to count them all. Between the family the commando guys are protecting (and all of the other train passengers) to the dozens of criminal thugs, plus others who board the train to join in when it gets bad. Especially compared to The Raid, I was constantly impressed by Nikhil Bhat’s ability to handle all these characters, not only giving each one a distinct personality, allowing them the flexibility to play with the role and make their character stand out. It adds to the thrilling dynamic of watching the action, as it makes the violence more meaningful and more painful whenever many of these people get harmed or destroyed or whatever awful thing happens.

I woke up the next day after the screening and still felt the buzz I had from watching it in the middle of the night. It is absolutely on the same level as The Raid. It’s best watched with a crowd and with the volume way UP – I wish everyone could enjoy it like this. The score by Ketan Sodha is amazing – energetic and vibrant and intense. The romance is amusing in a campy way that doesn’t distract from the overall experience. The performances are terrific, utterly believable yet still showy in a way that makes it all very entertaining. The violence is as brutal and as disgusting as cinematic violence can be, which may be discomforting for some viewers, but that’s all a part of the experience. The Sitges crowd eats up this kind of genre cinema, they’re used to it, and it seems to have been everything they wanted to see and more. This event with both The Raid and Kill was an unforgettable night of action cinema and I’m overjoyed I took the jump and made it to the end. Bhat’s Kill is everything last year’s Bullet Train wanted to be but never was. Kill easily earns its spot in the halls of great action. It’s invigorating and groundbreaking cinema that I’m glad someone is still making.

Alex’s Sitges 2023 Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter – @firstshowing / Or Letterboxd – @firstshowing

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