Film Review of the Week


Kill (18)

Review: Death and dismemberment on a grand scale have been in fashion this year. First, we waded through Dev Patel’s hyperkinetic directorial debut Monkey Man, which gleefully fused John Wick and Slumdog Millionaire including myriad close-ups of sharp objects piercing extremities. Then, we experienced the copious blood and entrails of writer-director Moritz Mohr’s Boy Kills World featuring a stomach-churning fight sequence with a cheese grater that left me glimpsing the screen through interlocked fingers.

Now we board the aptly titled Kill, a breathlessly staged Hindi-language action thriller that manages to increase tempo and the slaughter over a physically exhausting 104-minute train journey to New Delhi. There is no room in Bhat’s runaway script, co-written by Ayesha Syed, for gooey sentimentality or preconceptions. In a jaw-dropping early scene, one lovable character who we presume to be safe is casually slain with a knife to the stomach and flung to the ground to bleed out while chaos whirls around them.

Our disorientation escalates as the body count rises at dizzying speed including the demise of more central protagonists and the very real possibility that muscular leading man Lakshya will be dead on arrival at the terminus. This level of unvarnished brutality is a shock to the system since everyone is clearly expendable. Action sequences are impeccably choreographed and spare no expense with make-up and visual effects to break limbs in close-up and smash heads against every conceivable fixture and fitting of a train carriage. Strong stomachs are required.

Swaggering army commando Amrit (Lakshya) is in love with sweetheart Tulika (Tanya Maniktala) and intends to go down on bended knee. Unfortunately, her father Baldev Singh Thakur (Harsh Chhaya), owner of the Shanti Transit company, has already decreed that she will marry another man to solidify his business empire. Amrit and army buddy Viresh (Abhishek Chauhan) board the same train bound for New Delhi as Tulika and her family, determined to derail the engagement.

The military heroes are blissfully unaware that a gang of vicious knife-wielding bandits led by sociopath Fani (Raghav Juyal) have also boarded the train and intend to terrorise the innocent passengers. Once Fani and his thugs including hulking brute Siddhi (Parth Tiwari) enact their callous plan, panic spreads through the locomotive and Amrit and Viresh plot a forceful response.

Kill repeatedly shows casual disregard for human life (innocent or otherwise) in service of pulse-quickening thrills. Lakshya is a charismatic protector of the innocent, whose moral compass loses all sense of true north in the face of extreme provocation. The endless barrage of violence becomes numbing and when one terrified henchman screams “Who kills like this?” at Amrit, we fully understand his incredulity. Overkill would be a more fitting title.

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MaXXXine (18)

Review: X marks the g-spot in the world of adult entertainment. Film classification boards around the world used to award X certificates to works that were deemed suitable for viewers aged 18 and over. All publicity can be good publicity and enterprising movie makers added additional Xs to the rating to suggest that their XX or XXX feature was crammed to bursting with more salacious content than the competition. The concluding chapter of writer-director Ti West’s slasher horror trilogy proudly inhabits this lucrative world of sex-positive performance and gleefully draws attention to the three capitalised letters at the beating heart of its title.

MaXXXine is a disappointing conclusion to a time-hopping saga which began in 2022 with X, following the crew of an adult film as they ventured into the Texan countryside to shoot at a farm owned by elderly couple Howard and Pearl (Mia Goth). A dizzying second instalment, Pearl, charted the title character’s formative years in 1918 Texas, where dreams of becoming a dancer in Hollywood were thwarted by a domineering German immigrant mother.

The wanton bloodletting continues in MaXXXine, centred on one of the survivors of the first film – fame-seeking actress Maxine Minx (Goth) – as she aggressively pursues stardom in 1985 Los Angeles. A pungent setting allows West to exercise artistic licence with the real-life case of serial killer Richard Ramirez aka the Night Stalker, who terrorised residents of California and left satanic symbols at many crime scenes. Archive news footage plays on characters’ TV screens as a backdrop to the script’s loopier excesses, building to a lacklustre finale in the shadow of the iconic Hollywood sign.

Porn star Maxine (Goth) is determined to realise her father’s mantra (“I will not accept a life I do not deserve”) by auditioning for the religious horror film The Puritan II directed by Elizabeth Bender (Elizabeth Debicki). Maxine’s performance impresses Bender and the director overrules concerned producers to cast the wannabe in the lead role of her “B movie with A ideas”. As Maxine prepares for her big break, she becomes a potential victim of a Night Stalker copycat, despite the best efforts of Detectives Williams (Michelle Monaghan) and Torres (Bobby Cannavale) to apprehend the culprit.

Bookmarked by gratuitous explosions of gore, MaXXXine is the least satisfying dish of West’s protracted three-course meal. There is no narrative reward for guessing the identity of the copycat and supporting cast are squandered in underwritten roles that have the potential to leap kicking and screaming off the page. A nostalgic 1980s soundtrack sways enthusiastically to Kim Carnes, Eurythmics, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and New Order while West’s script trades quips about Hollywood and the history of horror movies. MaXXXine won’t be joining Psycho on that illustrious list.

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