Review by Sean Boelman
At nearly two hours in length, Moritz Mohr’s Boy Kills World is a deluge of non-stop action, gore, and wise-cracking humor. Yet despite all that energy, it’s hard to get invested in the film because of its painfully unoriginal script that has plenty of good ideas, but just seems to be spinning in circles endlessly.
The film follows a mute warrior who has been trained to be an instrument of death after the murder of his family, as he sets out on a journey to topple the regime that was responsible for his torment. Boy Kills World is the type of movie that wears its influences on its sleeve — perhaps a bit too earnestly — but will be catnip to the audience it is designed for as a result.
Mohr attempts to realize the film’s world in a way that feels graphic novel-esque, but Arend Remmers and Tyler Burton Smith’s script is so nondescript that it ends up feeling like just another dystopia. Although there are a few inspired moments — such as the introduction in the jungle — the more urban stuff starts to blend together with the film’s many influences.
The fight sequences in the film are great, but unfortunately, there’s just not enough of them. There are plenty of moments that are certain to get a visceral reaction out of the audience, including one with a cheese grater that manages to one-up the now-infamous scene from this year’s Evil Dead Rise.
Ultimately, the film wants us to get invested in the story because of the underlying family drama. However, Remmers and Smith do not seem to understand just how conventional their writing is. A young boy’s parents are viciously murdered in front of him, inspiring him to take up intense combat training in an effort to avenge them. Sound familiar? Of course, there are some twists on this formula, but not enough to make it feel fresh whatsoever.
The most frustrating thing about the film, though, is that the protagonist played by Bill Skarsgård is completely mute, and voiced by a narration track that is simply annoying. The wise-cracking nature of the character against the backdrop of the brutal violence has earned Deadpool comparisons, but the film is sadly never funny enough to work on that level.
That being said, apart from Skarsgård — whose talents feel sadly underused — the film has some inspired casting. Michelle Dockery, Brett Gelman, and Sharlto Copley chew the scenery to shreds as the film’s antagonists, with Copley in particular being a ton of fun to watch. Jessica Rothe gets a few moments in which she really gets to shine. And Andrew Koji steals his scene despite how brief it is.
There’s one thing you absolutely cannot fault Boy Kills World for — it does not lack in manic energy. However, in all that enthusiasm, the film still manages to underwhelm. Somehow, it’s consistently over-the-top, yet still never feels like enough. It’s passable as a B-movie, but you certainly expect it to go somewhere more.
Boy Kills World screened at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival, which ran September 7-17 in Toronto, Canada.