Boy Kills World Review: A Jacked-Up Parade of Soulless Ultraviolence

If you’re looking for flash and snark, Boy Kills World has them in spades.

Boy Kills World
Photo: Lionsgate

As if taking his older brother Alexander’s hulking, muscular presence in Robert Eggers’s The Northman as a personal challenge, Bill Skarsgard cuts an imposing figure in Moritz Mohr’s Boy Kills World. Every bit as jacked up as a professional wrestler, Skarsgard looks the part of a man hell-bent on revenge against Hilda Van Der Koy (Famke Janssen), the dictator who hosts an annual televised event in the film’s post-apocalyptic landscape known as The Culling, which claimed the lives of our hero’s family when he was a child.

Given his brawniness and the relentlessly brutal means with which he trains for his vendetta in the forest with the help of an Asian shaman (Yayan Ruhian), it’s more than a little dissonant that our deaf-mute protagonist, Boy, has his inner thoughts expressed in voiceover by H. Jon Benjamin, of Archer and Bob’s Burgers fame, rather than Skarsgard himself. It’s a curious decision that creates a pervasive and distracting disparity between sound and image. And while Benjamin does his best to lend his typical brand of bumbling neuroses a certain gravitas, the film’s limp, puerile script leaves Boy sounding less like an enraged man who’s been stewing in his anger for over a decade than a petulant, quippy teen who’s spent his adolescence re-watching Deadpool and playing one-on-one fighting games until his thumbs went numb.

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Indeed, Boy Kills World’s video game references are as much a constant here as the cringe-inducing, expletive-addled insults that Benjamin is regrettably forced to blurt out. Between the film’s video game-esque structure, mentions of a “final boss,” and a recurring flashback showing us young Boy (Cameron Crovetti) bonding with his sister (Quinn Williams) over a Street Fighter II-style arcade game, the steady array of wacky brawls and comedic gore become a matter of course. If you’re looking for flash and snark, Boy Kills World has them in spades, but it’s too punch-drunk on its own juvenile grandiosity to bother offering even a whiff of substance.

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Mohr’s film is most at ease when the camera is weaving through beaten bodies and swirling around Skarsgard as he slays his foes with everything from a hammer to a cheese grater. Yet, even with a bloated, nearly two-hour runtime, Boy Kills World barely concerns itself with building things out like character or story, remaining content to speed from one oh-so-irreverent encounter and fight between Boy and one of Hilda’s goons to the next.

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With Boy little more than a cipher spewing out wisecracks, you’d think that Boy Kills World might at least deliver a memorable villain. But all we get are a pair of insecure, ever-bickering buffoons in Hilda’s brother, Glen (Brett Gelman), and brother-in-law, Gideon (Sharlto Copley), and some feeble satire through the machinations of PR maven Melanie Van Der Koy (Michelle Dockery), whose fascist girlboss schtick is essentially a facsimile of Janssen’s own as the film’s Big Bad. In fact, of this dysfunctional family of misfit tyrants, only Jessica Rothe’s June 27 is given a glimmer of humanity or complexity beneath her shaded helmet.

But even this comes late in the game, and only after a stupid plot twist that introduces and embraces a racist, pro-imperialist perspective that goes unexamined for the remainder of Boy Kills World. Instead, it’s back to business as usual, with Boy continuing to pummel his adversaries with complete abandon as Mohr’s film remains gleefully unaware that its soulless parade of hyperactive bloodshed has long grown haphazardly, exhaustingly frenzied.

Score: 
 Cast: Bill Skarsgard, Jessica Rothe, Michelle Dockery, Famke Janssen, Sharlto Copley, Brett Gelman, Isaiah Mustafa, Andrew Koji, H. Jon Benjamin  Director: Moritz Mohr  Screenwriter: Tyler Burton Smith, Arend Remmers  Distributor: Lionsgate  Running Time: 111 min  Rating: R  Year: 2023

Derek Smith

Derek Smith's writing has appeared in Tiny Mix Tapes, Apollo Guide, and Cinematic Reflections.

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