BOY KILLS WORLD | Germany, South Africa, USA | 2023 | 111m | English
Directed By: Moritz Mohr
Akin to stuffing a supercollider full of arcade beat ’em ups, ultra-violent comics, and martial-arts B movies, and then mashing all the buttons, Moritz Mohr’s feature-film debut is a wicked, maximalist action-opera that pits a titular Boy (Bill Skarsgård) against Hilda Van Der Koy (Famke Janssen), the deranged matriarch of a corrupt post-apocalyptic dynasty that left the boy orphaned, deafened, and voiceless. Moulded from this tragic childhood into an instrument for revenge by an enigmatic shaman (The Raid’s Yayan Ruhian), Boy is set loose in his far-flung dystopia on the eve of its annual culling of dissidents. Feverish bedlam ensues. As he tries to parse his place in this delirious realm, Boy soon falls in with a desperate resistance group, all the while bickering with the apparent ghost of his rebellious little sister.
There is little nuance to this mayhem, but heaps of heart, particularly in Boy’s naive sincerity. This isn’t a purely silent performance — an inner voice intermittently expresses his character’s increasing incredulity — but Skarsgård is infectious as he expressively reacts to the wild antics of his fellow cast. This includes the wacky Sharlto Copley and Brett Gellman as Van Der Koy’s cronies, Jessica Rothe as a hardened enforcer who communicates via her sick LED motorcycle helmet, and a hilariously mumbly Isaiah Mustafa, whose frequent exposition transforms into surrealist asides on account of Boy’s bad lip-reading.
TIFF REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
RATING 3.5 out of 5
Boy Kills World is the bloody, action packed spectacle that midnight audiences want in their films, that with the talented cast led by Bill Skarsgård and Jessica Rothe, makes for one exhilarating, relentless and wildly entertaining midnight madness film.
Helming an action film requires dedication to the craft, as you not only have to be able to tell a story to catch the audience’s attention and hold it over the entire film, but you also have to orchestrate dazzling action scenes to deliver on the genre’s selling feature. And director Moritz Mohr, making his feature film debut, not only does this, but he does it with a stylish flare that makes for one wild, entertaining and adrenaline fueled ride from start to finish that action aficionados are going to eat up. Capturing a goofy yet serious tone throughout the film, that can only be likened to the films of James Gunn, Mohr makes excellent use of his all star cast and their talents to craft a crowd pleasing action extravaganza within a spectacularly developed world that has the potential to be the birth of a new action franchise.
Years after witnessing the brutal murder of his family and training with a mysterious shaman, Boy, a deaf mute, embarks on a mission to avenge his loved ones and get revenge against those individuals responsible for the death of his family.
One of the most impressive aspects about Boy Kills World is the immersive world building at play in the film. We are introduced to this world that is both familiar yet futuristic through expansive sets, and wonderful production and costume design that brings to life every facet of this world. With a more simplistic revenge story, the film is able to develop the world in which the story plays out, the inner workings of its government and societal structure to fully flesh out what Boy is up against on his mission to avenge the death of his family. It may seem like a minor element of the film to the more casual viewer, but without this attention to detail to create the world in which the story takes place, the stakes of Boy’s journey over the course of the film would not reach the dramatic heights they do.
The story itself is good; it follows the path you expect it to. It is a simplistic story, which is not bad in this case but an asset to the film as it provides enough conflict and intrigue to sustain Boy’s mission for the film’s entire runtime. The twist that comes near the end of the film is foreseeable, but with such a talented cast, it still comes across as a dramatic moment that will set the emotional tone of the film heading into the final fight sequence.
But you aren’t watching Boy Kills World for its complex story; you are watching it for the action sequences, and the film delivers some of the most enjoyable action moments of the year. Firmly rooting itself as a B style action film, there is an unrelentless amount of gore in the fight sequences that is stylized like a comic book to ensure that the sequences stay entertaining and never become gross. The fight choreography is outstanding, delivering high octane, furiously fast and exhilarating sequences throughout the film. Whether it be hand to hand combat, gun fights, or other unexpected weapons that Boy uses on his rampage, the fight sequences are going to have the inner action fan in you grinning from ear to ear. And that cheese grater scene… just brilliant! It’s hard to fathom, but it truly tops the cheese grater sequence from Evil Dead Rise with a gnarly moment in the film that will have you quickly gasping in shock and disgust, before letting out a gleeful cheer as it is an epic moment to say the least.
Helping to bring to life the action sequences is the impressive cinematography that utilizes different techniques to immerse the audience in the action. There are lots of large, sweeping shots that capture the scale of the sets as the action explodes across the screen, but also tight framed sequences that make it feel like you are right next to Boy during the fights. Most impressively is the use of drones during the hand to hand combat fights, allowing the audience to experience the fight at incredibly close quarters with free flowing movement, creating something truly sensational to witness.
Equally as impressive is the film’s cast, led by a fierce performance from Bill Skarsgård. Without uttering a single word throughout the film, Skarsgård creates an intense screen presence that matches the stakes of the story and the brutality of the film’s action. With a death stare during the action sequences that makes him a formidable opponent for everyone standing between him and his revenge, but also able to break the facade and play it slightly goofier for the film’s comedic moments, it’s a great performance. Jessica Rothe revels in the villainous nature of her character, stealing her scenes with a fury and deranged glee-fullness as her character racks up the body count. And the supporting cast is equally as great with a deliciously sinister turn from Famke Janssen, Michelle Dockery vamping it up as one of the film’s secondary villains, Sharlto Copley and Brett Gelman delivering pitch perfect comedic turns as two of the sleazy villains, Andrew Koji cast in a comedic role rather than leaning into his action roots, Yayan Ruhian with some stand out action moments, and Isaiah Mustafa generating some great laughs throughout the film.
When a midnight madness film knows what it is and fully embraces its outrageous nature, holding nothing back, you are guaranteed an entertaining time. And that is exactly what Boy Kills World is. Packed with brutal, exhilarating wall to wall action, and brought to life by the wickedly awesome performances of Bill Skarsgård and Jessica Rothe, Boy Kills World will quench every action enthusiast's thirst for an exciting midnight film that never fails to entertain for a second.