Aficionados of over-the-top action thrillers such as The Raid outings, the John Wick series, Outrage and its sequels, and the like should have a blast with director Moritz Mohr’s audacious feature-length debut Boy Kills World. Take the high-octane hand-to-hand fight scenes and gunplay from those films, set the story in a dystopian society, and add a good deal of humor, and you’re on the way to getting an idea of what this film is about — but you’ll only be partially right, as it holds many surprises.
A spirited bit of animation sets up the world of the film before live action kicks in. Bill Skarsgård of It and Barbarian renown toplines as Boy, a young man whose family was killed at the hands of tyrannical politician Hilda Van Der Koy (Famke Janssen) when he was a young boy. He was raised thereafter in the wild by his martial arts mentor (Yayan Ruhian), who trained him with only one goal in mind: kill Van Der Koy. Though trained to be his own weapon, Boy won’t find that task to be an easy one, as Van Der Koy’s whereabouts are not easy to learn, and she has a virtual army at her disposal that includes a soldier named June 27 (Jessica Rothe of Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2U) and family members who also possess a nasty streak.
As astute readers and fans of gory action thrillers might guess, mayhem aplenty ensues as Boy attempts to take down Van Der Koy and everyone who stands in his way. Action Designer/Action Director/Fight Coordinator Dawid Szatarski and his stunts crew members do an amazing job in tandem with Makeup Supervisor Cailin Nicolson and the other Makeup Department members — expect loads of graphic practical grue effects on par with gore-strewn horror films — and Cinematographer Peter Matjasko does a stellar job of capturing the mind-boggling proceedings.
Arend Remmers and Tyler Burton Smith’s screenplay hits the expected sweet spots for revenge thrillers but cranks up the absurdity thanks to unexpected revelations and video-game–like fight sequences (old-school fight games get a few amusing nods). Mohr directs with verve and an assured manner, blending the serious with the silly impressively.
Skarsgård gives a stellar lead performance. Although his character is mute, viewers hear his internal monologues, which often lead to hilarity, particularly when an ally speaks in a foreign language, as Boy can only read lips in English. Skarsgård and Rothe prove more than up to the task in scenes demanding physicality, and The Raid actor Ruhian is always reliable in his fight choreography.
Boasting dynamic action and color palettes that often seem to have popped directly out of graphic novels, Boy Kills World is a violent, colorful slice of cinematic entertainment with which genre-film fans should have a terrific time.
Boy Kills World screens as part of the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival, which runs September 7–17. For more information, visit https://www.tiff.net/.
Photo Credit: GRAHAM BARTHOLOMEW
- Joseph Perry, Boy Kills World