Film Review – Boy Kills World

Boy Kills World

Boy Kills World

There are a lot of ideas running all throughout Boy Kills World (2023). Maybe too many. This is a delirious, hyperactive, and blood splattered revenge tale. It takes several concepts and references and tosses them into a melting pot of violence and mayhem. You maybe thinking, “Well, based on that description, it must be good!” In truth, results will vary from viewer to viewer. Yes, the energy and non-stop chaos has an unmistakable appeal. For those who simply want high-octane action, then this is right up your alley. But the film also has a “Look at me!” attitude that makes it feel like it is trying too hard. It is so relentless and frantic that it pulls the rug out from under itself. You ever meet a person that tells a funny joke over and over to the point that it is no longer funny? This does a similar thing.

That isn’t to say that the cast and crew aren’t committed to the ridiculous nature of the narrative. Bill Skarsgård transforms his body into a lean, mean, killing machine. He plays Boy, a mute who – as a child – lost his family to the hands of the evil Van Der Koy family. The Van Der Koys are led by their matriarch, Hilda (Famke Janssen). As a display of her power, Hilda orders a yearly “culling,” in which citizens are gathered and massacred in public. Boy was an unfortunate survivor of a culling, and that has fueled his urge for revenge. He thus spent the entirety of his childhood deep in the jungle, training under the mentorship of a mysterious shaman (Yayan Ruhian) in hopes of one day taking down Hilda and the rest of her sadistic clan.


Director Moritz Mohr (who cowrites with Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers) constructs this universe like a mix of anime and superhero style elements. The world building is particularly bizarre. The production design crafts environments with inspiration from all parts of the globe. The cityscapes and costumes of the Van Der Koy regime come out of a dystopian future, but the outlying forests and vegetation would suggest that we were in the heart of an Asian jungle. The shantytowns resemble the slums of Rio de Janeiro, and the way Hilda broadcasts the cullings like a children’s television show has distinct parallels to the Korean Squid Game (2021). In other words, all the settings have little consistency across the board. At any point, we can be in a place that exists in the past, present, or future.

Above all else, Boy Kills World is an action film. Mohr and the rest of the production fill the narrative to the brim with brutal fight scenes and shootouts. This is a bloody, over-the-top affair, where physics is invited but isn’t required to be there. The set pieces are ludicrous, becoming more outlandish the further along things go. Bill Skarsgård has a physical build that has him towering over people. When you see him dodging a hailstorm of bullets down a narrow hallway, you immediately get a sense of the tone Mohr is going for. Granted, the fight choreography is quite good. Yayan Ruhian (whom I remember most from The Raid films) once again demonstrates his ability for electrifying hand to hand combat. Jessica Rothe also appears as an assassin named “June 27.” Her fight scenes – all while sporting a fancy motorcycle helmet – are impressive and bruising in equal measure. When we can actually see the performers showing off their skills is when the action is at its best.

Unfortunately, the direction, camerawork, and editing betray the choreography. The style is too jumpy and impatient to show off the visual details. There are shots where the camera simply cannot sit still and take in the action – as it zooms, twirls and zips around like a kid on a sugar rush. There are instances where the approach delivers some interesting outcomes. During one such scene, Boy barrels down an entire squad of soldiers with a sword, with the camera fixated only on his face in closeup. Seeing Skarsgård’s face contort while getting sprayed with blood makes for a remarkable scene. Sadly, not enough of that creativity is put into the rest of the film. Many of the set pieces are disrupted by a shaky camera and relentless cuts, making it difficult to even see what is going on. There is a lot of dynamism, but not a whole lot of cohesion. 


Credit should go to Moritz Mohr (making his feature length debut) and the rest of the production for taking some wild swings. A lot of them fall flat, but I admire the risk they were willing to take. One of the weirder choices was the incorporation of Boy’s inner monologue. Because he doesn’t have the ability to speak, he adopts an internal narration straight from an arcade video game (H. Jon Benjamin). This voice serves as a gateway for us to understand Boy’s thinking, although in an unconventional manner. Having the voice describe Boy’s family history in the style of an epic movie trailer just made for an off-kilter effect. The emotional stakes take a hit because of the eccentric fireworks. Boy’s motivation is fueled by the loss of his family, to the point that he imagines his dead younger sister (Quinn Copeland) sitting right next to him, even having conversations with his internal voice. But the impact is watered down. The film doesn’t seem all that concerned about developing Boy as a dimensional character than it is making him an instrument of destruction.

There are some late inning twists and turns that may catch people off guard, but by then they will either be onboard or completely checked out. And that’s ultimately where Boy Kills World will leave its mark. Viewers will either dig this brand of silliness or not – I doubt there will be many that will shrug their shoulders passively. While I did enjoy it at times, the velocity of it left me exhausted. It’s a cacophony of sights, sounds, and carnage. If that appeals to you, dear reader, then by all means enjoy yourself. Perhaps my taste for cartoonish action is slowing down with my old age.




Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

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