Though the running time is brief in comparison to most Indian arthouse movies, the storyline in “Shadow Kill” is so slight the film actually feels longer than it is. Outside the fest circuit, where it will get bookings thanks to writer-director Gopalakrishnan’s reputation, there will be few opportunities for distribution or ancillary in most countries.
Pic, well shot in Scope, unfolds in the 1940s in the state of Travancore, South India. Local hangman (Oduvil Unnikrishnan), employed by the state, doubles as a kind of faith healer; ashes from the hangman’s rope supposedly have curative properties. The aging executioner prepares for his latest assignment with no enthusiasm, and when the warder of the prison tells a very long story about the background to the crime — the murder of a village virgin — he’s even more reluctant, especially as it seems there’s been a miscarriage of justice. Whatever opportunities there might have been to turn this intriguing story into a successful film have been largely missed, the result of lethargic pacing and variable acting.