Vengeance and action go hand in hand, with revenge frequently serving as the central motivator for a single action hero to punch and slice their way through hordes of enemies. Such is the case with Boy Kills World, the feature debut from director Moritz Mohr. While its revenge plot may not offer any genuine narrative surprises, the manic B-movie energy combined with frenetic, gory action infuses a familiar conceit with a sense of video game fun.
Bill Skarsgård stars as Boy, a deaf-mute honed as a weapon for much of his life by a mysterious Shaman (The Raid’s Yayan Ruhian). Boy’s sole aim through over a decade of brutal training in the jungle is to take down the ruthless tyrant Hilda Van Der Koy (Famke Janssen). Hilda and her nefarious clan, including players Sharlto Copley, Michelle Dockery, and Brett Gelman, have created a dystopian Hunger Games-like world that involves an annual culling. It provides the perfect incentive for Boy to strike, working his way through endless bodies to take down the Van Der Koys.
Mohr, working from a script by Arend Remmers and Tyler Burton Smith (2019’s Child Play), gets the comic book-like actioner off to a sluggish, uneven start. The first act’s worldbuilding, exposition, and extensive training in the jungle delay the action thrills, making the manic tone and confused identity more prominent. It takes a while to get a feel for this wacky, Grant Morrison-inspired vision, complete with Boy’s internal dialogue and hallucinations. The arrival of June 27 (Happy Death Day’s Jessica Rothe) heralds the start of Boy’s official quest. Still, it’s only when Boy runs into Basho, played to comedic perfection by Andrew Koji, that Boy Kills World finally finds its groove and only ramps up an infectious energy from there.
That’s primarily because it’s this turning point where Mohr leaves the tonally jarring worldbuilding and setup behind and settles into a propulsive body-decimating actioner with impressive sequences choreographed by Dawid Szatarski and energetic, swooping camera work to capture the mayhem gleefully. It’s essentially a video game in movie form, with Boy moving his way up to the Final Boss through inventive set pieces and fights that offer no shortage of bone-crunching madness and a ton of arterial spray. Serendipitously, this Sam Raimi-produced actioner also happens to wield the cheese grater as a weapon, this time to much gnarlier results.
Once the lackluster, almost puerile first act gets put in the rearview, Boy Kills World gets more comfortable in this bizarro video game meets Hunger Games world, and its central players infuse the mayhem with grit, heart, and humor in equal measure. That they do so while delivering intense combat and over-the-top carnage isn’t as easy a line to tow as the cast and crew make it seem. Skarsgård and Rothe’s inherent likeability and screen presence ensure instant rooting interest, and Rufian once again brings top level gravitas to his role and fight scenes. Caught in between is the scene-stealing supporting performance by Koji, playing against type as the comedic relief and ally to the determined yet naïve Boy.
Boy Kills World takes time to smooth out its roughest edges and only continues to improve as it escalates the impressive violence. By the end, it’ll leave you clamoring to join Boy for a match of Super Dragon Punch Force II over a bowl of the sugariest breakfast cereal. And that sums up exactly what type of brawler this is.
Boy Kills World made its World Premiere at TIFF. Release info TBA.