In a cinematic landscape built on tried-and-true formulas, Moritz Mohr’s Boy Kills World dares to be different, blurring the boundaries between absurdity and adrenaline-pumping action. Written by Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers, this audacious venture is steeped in a dystopian backdrop plays by its own rules. Dive into a world where chaos meets comedy, and gory kills are an everyday thing. The film stars Bill Skarsgard, Famke Janssen, Yayan Ruhian, Sharlto Copley, Andrew Koji, Brett Gelman, Jessica Rothe, and Isaiah Mustafa.
Boy Kills World begins with an animation about the Culling, a yearly tradition that kills off random members of the population started by Hilda (Janssen). Then cut to the rainy jungle where the Boy, covered in mud, crawls to the feet of Shaman (Ruhian), a man who is also in the jungle training the boy in the way of martial arts. The narrative is accompanied by his internal dialogue that provides exposition and uses his ability to communicate with others who seem to understand him even though he can’t hear or speak.
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As an adult, the Boy (Skarsgard) sees Hilda’s minions Gideon (Gelman) and Glen (Copley) giving a speech about the year’s Culling event. Things go downhill as the townsfolk are killed by accident, thanks to the ineptitude of the duo. The Boy witnesses everything, and this inspires him to seek revenge for the death of his family. He leaves the Shaman behind and links up with Basho (Koji) and Bennie (Mustafa), who are a part of the resistance against the Culling. Together they vow to take down the whole establishment even if it costs them their lives.
First and foremost, the narrative twist left me speechless. It’s reminiscent of those unexpected turns in a roller-coaster ride – you see it coming but you can’t quite believe it until it’s right there in front of you. I am not easily surprised in the saturated market of plot twists, yet Remmers and Smith defy expectations, subverting the audience’s preconceived notions in a shocking way. Yet, the film isn’t without its mess ups. The overall story, while engaging, poses some puzzling optics as I questioned the characterization of the shaman, why is he painted as an enemy? The depiction is a narrative discrepancy and the film wants you to root for characters who started the drama in the first place. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
The fight scenes are an area where Boy Kills World could have benefited from a bit more steadiness. Mohr’s use of shaky cam, in tandem with frequent cuts, blurs what could have been thrilling choreography. Instead of being drawn into the thick of the action, I found myself squinting, and struggling to decipher what’s happening in the face of all of the chaos. But the silliness of it all draws parallels to the low-ranked anime you’ll see on Crunchyroll. This may be a harsh comparison, but like most anime the movie teeters between absurdist comedy and gory action, switching between moments that made me chuckle and those that made me wince. This is part of the charm. It doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a raucous, entertaining spectacle.
In terms of performances, while Skarsgård brings a certain charm to his role with his signature smirk, it’s Ruhian who steals the show. Watching this diminutive powerhouse stand toe-to-toe with giants, delivering blow after blow, reinforces the idea that Ruhian is slowly but surely cementing his position in Hollywood as an up and coming action star. His range and power in action sequences are commendable, even if the film’s editing doesn’t always do him justice.
Boy Kills World jumps back and forth between exciting and confusing. For all of its narrative issues, it remains a vivid spectacle that revels in its genre-blending chaos. This cinematic endeavor proves it can entertain even amidst its imperfections. For those in search of an unapologetically bold action flick with hints of comedy, this film delivers. In the vast world of action cinema, this is an uneven ride mostly works if you move past its inconsistencies.
Title: Boy Kills World
Festival: Toronto Film Festival (Midnight Madness)
Release date: N/A
Director: Moritz Mohr
Screenwriters: Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers
Cast: Bill Skarsgard, Famke Janssen, Yayan Ruhian, Sharlto Copley, Andrew Koji, Brett Gelman, Jessica Rothe, and Isaiah Mustafa
Running time: 1 hr 51 mins
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