Director: Moritz Mohr
Screenplay: Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers
Story by: Arend Remmers and Moritz Mohr
Starring: Bill Skarsgard, Jessica Rothe, Michelle Dockery, Brett Gelman, Isaiah Mustafa, Yayan Ruhian, Andrew Koji, Sharlto Copley, H. Jon Benjamin, Famke Janssen
Country: Germany, South Africa, USA
Running Time: 111 min
Year: 2023
BBFC Certificate: 18

Film is such a wonderful medium, one that I frequently compare to food – there’s something for everyone and, more importantly, there’s something for whatever your mood may be. Perhaps you fancy some kind of delicate tasting menu, a feast for the senses where the chef will delight you and entice such wonderful reactions from you. Sometimes you just fancy a kebab. Boy Kills World, the debut feature film by Moritz Mohr, fits somewhere just above that kebab, perhaps more a trip to Five Guys where you know it’s just fast food, but it feels a little bit more elevated than your average dirty burger – and it’s a blast to watch!

Unsurprisingly not a gritty remake of the 1990’s Ben Savage starring teen drama, Boy Meets World, Boy Kills World begins in media res with an unnamed protagonist, simply called Boy (Skarsgard) training under a mysterious martial arts master named Shaman (Ruhian), training that seems to require a ton of punishment as well as mind altering drugs. All of this is for a single goal – to murder the family of fascist dictators, the Van Der Koy’s (Dockery, Gelman, Copley and Janssen) who rule over the unnamed city they live in and who brutally murdered Boy’s mother and sister when he was younger. After witnessing a public execution in a market, Boy triggers his honed combat skills and pursues the family to their secure compound, aided only by a seemingly inept rebel cell (Mustafa, Koji) against seemingly insurmountable odds, including the family’s brutal head of security, June27 (Rothe).

Boy Kills World is a tremendously stylised comic book style thriller shot through not only with increasingly more and more savage violence, but also with a superbly dark sense of humour. Its dystopian setting, an unnamed, decaying city in what could be a future America, is portrayed with a more playful tone than its closest counterpart, The Hunger Games. Visually it plays off the stark contrast between the grey, drab clothes of the lower class inhabitants versus the bright primary colours worn by the Van Der Koy’s and their army in a way that recalls a typically anarchic 2000AD comic strip. The Van Der Koy’s themselves almost feel lifted from videogame lore, a collective family of proper baddies that would feel at home as the antagonists of a Far Cry game, something that certainly plays to the videogame trappings of the films style.

It’s the more comic elements that really elevate this beyond a standard sci-fi revenge affair, something to be expected with a cast featuring the likes of Brett Gelman and Sharlto Copley as Gideon and Glen Van Der Koy, both of whom are recognisable for playing more comic relief characters, but it also features some surprisingly comic turns from its other actors. Andrew Koji who viewers may recognise from starring rolls in Snake Eyes and TV’s superb Warrior plays a wonderfully unhinged character in Basho, a psychotic revolutionary using his often unheard Surrey accent and seems to be having a whale of a time in the role. Bill Skarsgard, meanwhile, has a much more difficult part to play – revealed to have been deafened and muted by the Van Der Koy’s after the execution of his family, Skarsgard has to deliver a performance that is 100% physical with his inner monologue delivered in typical deadpan style by comic actor H. Jon Benjamin (Archer, Bob’s Burgers) – it’s a role that was very much built for action.

And what wonderful action it is, with slickly choreographed fight scenes which show off plenty of slow motion and camera angles that actually let you see the action. Skarsgard for his part throws himself into these fights, his skinny muscled action hero (something he seems to be carving out a niche with, following up this film with his remake of The Crow) bouncing between baddies, breaking them like toothpicks and showing off the speedy martial arts skills he’s picked up from his mentor. But in a role with no dialogue, there’s a brilliant silent movie physicality to the role that somewhat echoes Jackie Chan in his prime, all exaggerated expressions and stunt focussed fighting. Boy Kills World certainly earns its BBFC 18 rating; the violence is ultra splashy and often wince inducing with one scene in particular that delivers on the cheese grater related trauma that could only be hinted at in Tenet’s 12A rating.

The cast is nicely broad as well, with Quinn Copeland appearing as the Boy’s dead sister who appears to him as a figment of his imagination, both egging him on and bugging him as only a younger sibling can, while Michelle Dockery appears as the egotistical Melanie Van Der Koy. On the more serious side of the character spectrum though, we have great performances from The Raid’s Yayan Rhian, bringing his usual lithe physicality to Shaman, as well as Happy Death Day’s Jessica Rothe as the savage June27. Rounding things off is Famke Janssen’s unhinged and cruel matriarch, Hilda Van Der Koy, a role with the least screen time but one which still leaves an impact as the de-facto “final boss” of the tale.

Yes, the tale itself is a little thin, mere scene dressing for the 111 minute run time that consists mostly of action scenes, and it throws in a third act twist which, while predictable is nicely executed nonetheless. But with its “shades of grey” characters delivering a story that doesn’t always neatly present good or evil, Boy Kills World is a fun time with a film that invites you to worry less about the small details and more about how the next baddie is going to get mangled to a pulp – and sometimes that’s all you want from a movie!

Boy Kills World
4.0Overall Score
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