Boy Kills World is Maximum Carnage with Minimum Personality

Moritz Mohr’s Boy Kills World is aware you have seen it all before. The film doesn’t even try to cover its comic book, computer game, The Hunger Games inspirations, which is why it comes racing out the gate with its tongue-in-cheek satire prepacked.

The Van Der Koy’s – led by Famke Janssen (Xenia Onatopp rides again) playing the matriarch Hilda – have created their own fascist state in an “unspecified area.” Every year they have “The Culling” – a process which keeps the people fearful and roots out their enemies. We know this because the “super cool” arcade-game slash every generic 80s and 90s trailer voiceover tells us: “He’s not out for revenge, he’s out for justice.”

The Macbeth quote applies equally: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The protagonist “Boy” (played as a child by the twins Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti who played Alexander Skarsgård’s sons in Big Little Lies) watches as his sister Mina (Quinn Copeland) and mother are ceremonially shot. Left for dead, Boy is found by the Shaman (esteemed martial artist Yahan Ruhian voiced by François Chau) and nursed back to health. Now mostly deaf and mute, Boy has forgotten what his own voice was and is now replaced by H. Jon Benjamin (also the saucy can of vegetables from Wet Hot American Summer).

Boy’s memories are disjointed. He remembers cereal and crayons. He remembers his sister being brave and giving the five-finger salute to the statue of Hilda in the town square. He remembers that she made everything better – she made an escape plan to get the hell out of dodge. Shaman’s punishing training regime includes starvation, live burial, pushing a giant head up a hill and trying to avoid it killing him as it rolls back down, and a cartload of hallucinogenics.

Boy signed up for this. One day he will be strong enough to take his revenge on the Van Der Koy family. One day he will burn it all down. But first he needs to learn to lip read and become an autodidact by reading the dictionary and survive sneak attacks from Shaman. (Editors note: In video game parlance, he has to level up.)

The satire is strong, young Padawan – and the action is spectacular as you would expect from having some of the best in the business take it on. Bill Skarsgård is ripped –Alexander is no longer the primary “Skars-bro” (trademark pending). Bill is the quiet achiever. Parkour, flying kicks, MMA, and hurdy-gurdy set pieces take the protagonist from the jungle to the city where he watches Glen (Sharlto Copley) Caesar Flickerman his way through a speech written by his brother-in-law Gideon (Brett Gelman) who fancies himself a poet. He was also the chief enforcer until little sister June27 (Jessica Rothe) suited up in her leathers and TRON-like helmet with flashing “FU!” LED.

A bit of sneaky sneaky and choppy choppy gets Boy into the Capitol where he meets up with Basho (Andrew Koji), an affable but not entirely reliable ally. In his 80s styled action vest Boy dominates until chatty visions of the irrepressible Mina get him in trouble. Basho proves to be not entirely useless (go team) and extracts information from Glen about the family party Melanie (Michelle Dockery – chief PR and corporate handler Effie Trinket with an arsenal of weapons) holds every year before the televised culling.

Basho leads him to the Resistance – which has somewhat thinned in his time as a slave, down to Benny (Isiah Mustafa) whose lips Boy can’t read so it comes out as gibberish.

In the years between Boy’s rescue heavy weighs the crown. Hilde has become a paranoid recluse living in a bunker. The siblings are Succession squabbling and huffing some kind of drug to keep them going. They all hate each other. Melanie just wants the arena event done via pineapple mascots and Crunchy pirate cereal Captains obliterating what few remaining people June27 didn’t massacre earlier. “Do you know how hard it is to get snack food companies to sponsor murder?!”

Everything is veneer so Boy can Street Fighter or Tekken finish them. There are some genuinely hilarious set pieces where Boy has to act “cheffy” and learns about macaroons and inventive ways to use a cheese grater as he John Wicks his way through the kitchen.

Boy Kill World is best when Bill Skargård commits to the bit with his huge eyes and impressive abs and biceps. The Euro knock off 87North has a while to go before it has the panache of the works its liberally stealing from. It is a better Mortal Kombat movie than Simon McQuoid’s Australian shot version. It’s better than Duncan Jones’ misfire Mute starring Alexander Skarsgård. If there is a sequel or spinoff it would be fun to pit Pennywise and Eric Northman against each other. There’s also Valter Skarsgård to toss in and what about Stellen? Why not? Enter player three!

Pulpy, ridiculous, and bone-crunchingly violent, Boy Kills World runs out of steam as quicky as dropped quarters into an arcade game. Ripping off arms, feet, hands and whatever else is available is exhausting to watch. It also isn’t funny any longer because the few jokes are just reconfigured for the same punchline. First time feature director Moritz Mohr expands his short with the help of scribe Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers whose work connects to the crowdfunded and smug short action satire Kung Fury in the upcoming sequel and the 2019 reboot of Child’s Play. Zero shock in learning Smith also writes video games.

There was an opportunity for some social commentary, especially as the film was made mostly in South Africa. The Van Der Koy’s are avatars for colonialism – especially when you add in the Indonesian action legend Yayan Ruhian of The Raid. Boy Kills World has a disinterest in expanding on themes because it presumes you already get it, meaning that little is “said” at all.

Director: Moritz Mohr

Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Jessica Rothe, Michelle Dockery

Writers: Tyler Burton Smith, Arend Remmers, (Screen story by Arend Remmers, Moritz Mohr, based on the short film Boy Kills World by Arend Remmers & Moritz Mohr)

Producers: Zainab Azizi, Wayne Fitzjohn, Dan Kagan, Alex Lebovici, Roy Lee, Stuart Manashil, Sam Raimi, Simon Swart

Music: Ludvig Forssell

Cinematography: Peter Matjasko

Editing: Lucian Barnard

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Nadine Whitney

Nadine Whitney holds qualifications in cinema, literature, cultural studies, education and design. When not writing about film, art or books, she can be found napping and missing her cat.

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