Boy Kills World Is A Great Concept With Awful Direction [Review]

Warning: The following review of Boy Kills World contains minor spoilers for the film.

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Boy Kills World should be my kind of film. A high-concept action flick with meta-humorous overtones produced by Sam Raimi and featuring the narration of H. Jon Benjamin with fights choreographed by Dawid Szatarski and a bit of The Raids Yayan Ruhian thrown in? Yeah, you’ve got me dead to rights with that. Yet, there’s that pesky little word in the first sentence up there: “should.” Should can ruin a lot of things.

Boy Kills World has concepts layered on concepts layered on concepts but at its core, it should be a bloody, violent action movie where you sit down to watch Bill Skarsgårds kill lots of people with his fists, guns, and random weapons. Skarsgård plays Boy, a young man who is both deaf and mute so he has adopted the inner voice of the announcer from his favorite video game (Benjamin) as he goes on a quest for revenge against the fascist, totalitarian family that killed his mother and sister.

Training for years in the jungle with The Shaman (Ruhian), Boy eventually begins his revenge tour teaming up with a few rebels while dismembering, mauling, and generally leaving gallons of blood behind him. This is all set in a dystopian future city where the family, run by Hilda Van der Koy (Famke Jansen), performs a culling once a year to kill Hilda’s enemies. There’s also the mysterious, motorcycle-helmet-wearing June 27 (Jessica Rothe), who leads the Van der Koy’s security.

All of this story is presented through Boy’s inner monologue and his hallucinations of his younger sister before she was murdered. That gives most of the dialog in the film to Benjamin, who functions as a kind of deep-voiced child, unsure of how the world actually works but hell-bent on revenge. It’s an incredibly cool concept with the perfect voice actor (Benjamin voices perpetual manchild Sterling Archer in Archer) and it works really well as Boy’s mental narration of events delivers easy exposition, comedy, and meta-narrative to the entire action genre. Or, at least, it should function like that if the screenplay was a bit tighter and didn’t abandon most of its cleverness by the end.

Much of what makes Boy Kills World look like it should work is its world, which is definitely built visually over logically. That can be absolutely fine, we are watching a visual medium after all, and Boy Kills World has a lot of cool-looking concepts in it all delivered to take things to an over-the-top place. There’s an entire fight sequence with cereal mascots, June 27’s helmet features an LED screen that shows words she’s thinking, a weird drug that gives people superpowers, and costuming like some sort of Hunger Games rip-off but covered in blood. There are just so many ideas bouncing around this movie and the majority of them are really cool.

However, there’s just too many of ideas, and Boy Kills World can never hold its attention long enough to deliver any payoffs. For instance, the strange drug is teed up multiple times then used only once and never explained and June 27’s helmet is removed multiple times destroying both the impact of its visuals and the dichotomy between her and Boy.

Poor execution of cool ideas isn’t a deal breaker for a blood bath fight movie like this, though. We’re all here to see the action and stringing together a series of great action sequences should allow you to not think about the fact that the film doesn’t seem to have an idea of what it wants to do beyond “this would be cool if…”. Sadly, the movie’s action is a complete and total mess, suffering from some of the worst direction I’ve seen of fight sequences in years.

Director Moritz Mohr can’t stop moving the camera. Every fight sequence is a mishmash of poorly timed cuts, swooping cameras, and quick pans. It is a collection of things that, when used correctly and in moderation, should make a fight sequence awesome, but Moritz has no idea how to use any of them. His poorly directed pacing, staging, and tempo of every fight means every blow lands with a disjointed thud instead of a bone-curdling “Oh shit!” There’s no anchor to hold onto space in the fights since his camera is constantly flying around trying to get a cool shot and thus fights become a big mess of limbs, blood, and failed one-shots.

Maybe this was all in the name of the concept. We’re supposed to be seeing these sequences through the mind of a child, right? And when the film’s final fight does come, Moritz finally stops moving the camera allowing for the combatants to deliver an actual decent fight sequence. But I think that would be giving the director too much credit. No, more likely, Moritz should have made a better film and just didn’t.

Boy Kills World is just one big ball of shoulds. A missed opportunity barrelling across the screen as it hurtles toward an ending that, much like the rest of the movie, should work but just kind of doesn’t.


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Author
Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is a News Writer and film aficionado at Escapist. He has been writing for Escapist for nearly five years and has nearly 20 years of experience reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and video games for both print and online outlets. He has a degree in Film from Vassar College and a degree in gaming from growing up in the '80s and '90s. He runs the website Flixist.com and has written for The Washington Post, Destructoid, MTV, and more. He will gladly talk your ear off about horror, Marvel, Stallone, James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.