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Lakshya bandages his wounds (and does the obligatory shirtless-hero shot) aboard a long train ride in Kill. Courtesy Roadside Attractions

Well, you see, Indians do watch movies from other countries. That’s true everywhere, of course, but even with the country’s recent restrictions on free speech, India still isn’t China or Iran. Their filmmakers can make a movie with obvious foreign influences and not get in trouble with the government. So, we have the current Kalki 2898 A.D., which is clearly influenced by Star Wars and Marvel, and this week, we have the simply titled Kill, which imitates the bone-crunching stylings of Indonesian and South Korean action thrillers. It may be more for our audiences than for the ones back home, but you’d have to say it entertains us Westerners pretty well.

Our hero is Capt. Amrit Rathod (Lakshya), who’s on leave from his job as a commando for the National Security Guard, which is India’s elite counter-terrorism unit. In the city of Ranchi, he reunites with his girlfriend Tulika (Tanya Maniktala) after a long absence, only to find that she has caved to pressure from her wealthy gun-toting father (Harsh Chhaya) and agreed to an arranged engagement to another man. The whole family is traveling more than 600 miles by train to Delhi for the wedding. Amrit takes his best friend and fellow commando (Abhishek Chauhan) on the train to spirit her away and elope with her, but the lovers are thwarted by some 40 machete-wielding bandits who have planned to rob the train.

How to count the ways this is different from a Bollywood movie? For one thing, it runs a scant 105 minutes, leaving no time for dance numbers or any of the breaks you’d expect. There isn’t even an opening action sequence in another location to establish our protagonist’s badass credentials. Characters in Indian movies don’t often curse, but here the hero’s very first line of dialogue is, “You smell like shit” — in English, no less — and there’s a lot more obscenity where that comes from. Despite the preponderance of guns on the train, people on both sides are reluctant to use them because, as one character points out, domestically made Indian guns are prone to backfiring.

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Amrit is forced to fight a giant (Parth Tiwari) on the bad guys’ side, which isn’t atypical, but he loses the fight, which sure is. A major character dies just before the title sequence, which comes 45 minutes into the film. Just like in Monkey Man, the hero is actually hurt by all the violence, and Lakshya — a newcomer from Indian TV — is actor enough to communicate the pain that comes with every punch and stab wound. Pretty much everyone whom Amrit kills in the early going has a brother, a son, or even a father who’s part of the gang, so the remaining villains are craving revenge by the film’s end. You haven’t seen copaganda until you’ve seen Indian movies glorify their police and military, but here the hero goes “ Ryan Gosling in the elevator in Drive” on one bad guy’s head with a fire extinguisher. Plenty of Western films have raised the question of whether their main characters are good at killing bad guys because they’re psychopaths rather than heroes, but this is uncharted territory for an Indian movie.

This movie could be Train to Busan, with the zombies switched out for gangsters. Writer-director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat makes creative use of the train’s cramped quarters, which are less cramped than they first appear, as the fights frequently spill into the seating or sleeping areas flanking the aisles. Maybe you’re drawn to Bollywood action films because of their goofiness and their musical numbers and their physics-defying heroes, and if that’s the case, then the businesslike Kill is not for you. However, it says something that even before the film has played in our theaters, a Hollywood remake has been announced with John Wick director Chad Stahelski helming it. Even Stahelski will have to raise his game to top the thrills of this import.

 

Kill
Starring Lakshya and Tanya Maniktala. Written and directed by Nikhil Nagesh Bhat. Not rated.

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