Man covered in blood looks over his shoulder.

Film Review: Boy Kills World


Film Review: Boy Kills World
Director: Moritz Mohr
Hammerstone Studios and Raimi Productions
In Theaters 04.26

The modern action movie seems to feel that either the fate of the entire universe has to be at stake in order to keep people engaged, or that the only alternative to Marvel-style plotting is to base your movie solely around bloody, Kill Bill-style revenge. Boy Kills World is the latest entry in the latter category. 

In a vague, post-apocalyptic future, a twentysomething man identified only as Boy (Bill Skarsgård, It, Nine Days) is out to settle a decades old grudge against Hilda Van Der Koy (Famke Janssen, X-Men, GoldenEye) the leader of a corrupt oligarch family who is responsible for the tragedy that left Boy orphaned, deaf and mute all in one fell swoop. Boy narrates the film through though an internal monologue, despite having no voice. Since he has no frame of reference for his adult voice, he’s taken one from the announcer on a Mortal Kombat-style videogame from his childhood, which is provided by Bob’s Burgers star H. Jon Benjamin. Boy has spent more than a decade training with a mystical Shaman (Yayan Ruhian, The Raid) with the goal of taking down the Van Der Koys, As the annual ceremony to eliminate dissidents (known as The Culling) approaches, Boy sets out to fulfill his purpose, unexpectedly accompanied by what appears to be the spirit of his defiant and precocious younger sister, Mina (Quinn Copeland, Punky Brewster). In a world of brutality and chaos, Boywill emerge triumphant or die trying.

Coming only weeks after Monkey Man, it’s tempting to view Boy Kills World as a direct parody of Dev Patel’s violent revenge thriller. One film features a protagonist named Kid, the other one named Boy. In addition, both dabble in sociopolitical commentary to set up a scenario where the protagonist sets out on a methodical and sadistic quest to avenge his family, and both feature District 9 star Sharlto Copley in a thankless role. The reality is that there’s no direct connection: these are merely two films taking different approaches to the same decidedly stale template, and apart from the Copley coincidence, it’s all merely part of a larger and lazier problem of a dearth of fresh ideas in Hollywood. Where both films lost me was in descending to the level of pure sadism, with the protagonist repeatedly making a calculated choice to inflict perverse torturous pain rather than merely getting through each moment by any brutal means necessary. In Boy Kills World, it’s meant to be humorous—in a fight sequence set in a kitchen, Boy grabs a cheese grater rather than a knife or cleaver—though it fails to work on the level of Hot Fuzz or Deadpool because it all looks far too realistic. The violence is so relentless that by the time the movie enters its second hour, you may find yourself too numbed to be shocked and too repulsed to be entertained. This is when director and story writer Moritz Mohr tries to pull a rabbit out his hat with a major reveal that was interesting enough to keep me watching, though not clever or convincing enough to make it a good film. There’s also an extremely irritating over-reliance on wallowing in awkwardly used profane and vulgar language that seems to be written by middle schoolers, or perhaps YouTubers.

Skarsgård is impressive as Boy, throwing himself into the physical demands of the role with gusto and communicating a lot through facial expression. The voiceover from the hilariously deadpan Benjamin is easily the most entertaining aspect of the film, in part precisely because it’s such an odd match to Skarsgård’s face and frame. The interplay between Skarsgård and Copeland’s Mina is so good that I found myself trying hard to go with the movie whenever they were on screen together, and Jessica Rothe (Happy Death Day) is memorable as an enforcer known as June 27. Everyone else is too shrill or too hammy to be worth mentioning.

Boy Kills World may well play strongly to the violence equals fun crowd, and may well find a cult following, though for my taste, any entertaining aspect to the shock value wears out very quickly. The fact that this movie even got made is a testament to the demand for content that wallows in gleefully wrongheaded immaturity, and I found it to be quite a disheartening experience. – Patrick Gibbs 

Read more action film reviews here:
Film Review: Monkey Man
Film Review: Kung Fu Panda 4