Boy Kills World Review – TIFF 2023
By Shakyl Lambert,2023-09-27
To paraphrase a Phineas & Ferb quote, if I had a nickel for every Raid-inspired action movie at TIFF 2023 that featured the word “Kill” in the title, I would have two nickels. It isn’t much, but it’s hilarious that it happened twice. Boy Kills World is the flashier movie of the two, but it’s definitely also the more irritating one.
Boy Kills World opens with the origin of the titular Boy ( Bill Skarsgard ). Every year, dictator Hilda Van Der Koy ( Famke Janssen ) organizes a yearly “Culling,” wherein she kills random civilians to keep her people in line. After his family is killed in a Culling, he is rendered deaf-mute and is raised in the jungle by a Shaman (Yayan Ruhian of The Raid fame), who trains the Boy to become a ruthless killing machine.
Fast-forward several years later, and the Boy, now grown, sets off on his quest for revenge. It’s a simple story that’s inspired by video games, comic books, anime and various other dystopian media. However, sadly, the world of Boy Kills World feels blandder than a lot of the media that influenced it.
Since the Boy is deaf-mute, all of the Boy’s dialogue comes courtesy of internal narration via Skarsgård’s voice. The problem is that nearly none of the humour is actually funny, constantly relying on Deadpool-style “lol so random” humour across the entire cartoonish cast of characters. One particularly rough recurring gag involves Isaiah Mustafa’s Benny, an ally whose lips the Boy can’t read, leading him to interpret Benny’s dialogue as Pootie Tang-style gibberish and complete non-sequiturs.
“…the world of Boy Kills World feels blandder than a lot of the media that influenced it.”
It’s a bit that starts off bad and gets more grating as it goes on. The same can be said for Boy’s hallucinations of his little sister Mina ( Quinn Copeland ). While she exists as the Boy’s conscience and to give the Boy someone to play off of dialogue-wise, her appearances devolve into annoying randomness too, at one point appearing as a ninja with butterfly wings.
Why? Just because. The villains aren’t any better, with Brett Gelman, Michelle Dockery and Sharlto Copely delivering a ton of groans as the other Van Der Koy clan members. The only one who gets away with a few chuckles is Andrew Koji as freedom fighter Basho, and that’s entirely due to his live-wire performance. Although the humour finally comes to a stop in the last act, it’s almost too little, too late. A friend of mine had even already walked out of the theatre by that point.
Boy Kills World ’s one saving grace is in its violent, hyper-stylized action sequences. This is clearly where debuting director Moritz Mohr placed his focus, and those results pay off well, especially in the fight choreography and the frenetic, sweeping camerawork. Each set piece feels like a stage of an aforementioned video game, all down to the various bosses, minibosses, and weaponry on hand.
There’s even a bit involving macarons which might as well be Boy’s version of an invincibility star in Super Mario Bros. Skarsgård, Rahian and Jessica Rothe (playing the Van Der Koys’ LED-helmeted enforcer known only as “June 27”) all give very impressive physical performances, as they use every weapon they can get their hands on against each other, whether it’s guns, swords, or their fists. It’s also funny how this is the second Sam Raimi-produced film I’ve seen this year to feature a memorably violent moment involving a cheese grater.
Boy Kills World is a movie of two distinct personalities. One personality is a truly great hyper-violent action movie, the other personality is the most obnoxious comedy I’ve seen in years. While I was able to withstand one in order to enjoy the other, your mileage may very much vary. I’d almost recommend waiting for a digital release and fast-forwarding your way between the action scenes. Otherwise, you’re going to spend a lot of time wanting everyone to simply shut up and fight.