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Though Boy Kills World (the feature debut of German writer-director Moritz Mohr) tries its best to conjure a snarky, gory action flick à la Deadpool, a sorely lacking script, bloated runtime, and aimless direction render this revenge flick aggressively tepid.


Starring Bill Skarsgård, Jessica Rothe, and Michelle Dockery, Boy Kills World follows the titular Boy (Skarsgård), an orphaned young man living on the fringes of a “totalitarian hellhole” of a society that operates under the boot of the filthy rich Van Der Koy family. When Boy’s mother and sister are killed by order of the Van Der Koys (an incident that leaves him mute), he vows to seek revenge. Training under the tutelage of The Shaman (Yayan Ruhian), he hones himself into a living weapon.


If that synopsis sounds gratingly familiar, that’s because it is—Boy Kills World’s plot is about cliché and predictable as it gets, and the film doesn’t make many attempts to explore or alter a single element of this well-trodden revenge story. Outside of the cartoonishly apocalyptic and half-heartedly stylized aesthetics, there’s one clear element that the film thinks is the secret to standing out—a voice-over narration delivered by H. Jon Benjamin


To the film’s credit, having a beloved voice actor lend their sound to a silent killer is a clever premise, and Benjamin’s voice is as iconic as it is ill-fitting for Skarsgård’s Boy, which is clearly the filmmakers’ intent. But while hearing Bob Belcher make quips about whoever he’s fighting does add some flavor to your standard, run-of-the-mill fight scene, it’s a shtick that gets very tired very quickly.


Boy Kills World seems to think that casting Benjamin as Boy’s inner voice is a shortcut to wit and humor, but the unfortunate truth is that in a post-Marvel world, having a snarky internal dialogue mid-combat is old hat. Though Benjamin gives his lines plenty of panache, Boy Kills World’s script simply doesn’t have the wit, depth, or ingenuity to deliver the kind of unpredictable, offbeat action flick it thinks it is.


What the script most frequently struggles with is its voice and sense of self. Despite clocking in at just under two hours, the film’s world-building never moves beyond outlandish surface-level aesthetic choices, refusing to let the audience get to know or care about these characters beyond the tragedy inherent in their lives. Certainly, the extreme exaggerations of the Van Der Koys and their televised “culling” of citizens for entertainment are meant to be satirical, but the film never presents any thoughtful reaction to or deconstruction of their capital-driven cruelty.


Similarly, Boy himself is a character who seems to exist only in broad strokes. By the time we meet him in the film, he’s already been taken under Shaman’s wing, and once he takes his revenge mission to the streets, there are even fewer chances to explore who Boy is. In addition to having him speak directly to the audience via Benjamin’s narration, the film’s other reality-bending quirk is the presence of Boy’s little sister Mina, who follows Boy around as a constant reminder of his tragic past.


Though Skarsgård and Benjamin both do an admirable job of selling Boy’s devotion to Mina, the fact that they can’t speak directly to each other, compounded by Boy being played by multiple actors at once, makes it difficult for the emotional beats between Boy and Mina to truly land. Certainly Skarsgård’s puppy eyes are a formidable foe, but it’s hard to truly care about Boy’s supposed bond with Mina when we haven’t seen it in the flesh.


Quinn Copeland makes for a spirited, spunky Mina, though she too is consistently underserved by dialogue aiming for witty and more often than not ending up clunky and unfunny. Opposite Boy, Mina, and the Shaman, the rest of Boy Kills World’s ensemble is rounded out by a gaggle of mustache-twirling, gun-toting villains: the Van Der Koys. Just as Boy is shallowly empathetic, the extent of or motivation behind the Van Der Koys’ caricatured cruelty is never explored, leaving little for the actors to work with in terms of character.

In terms of personality, the Van Der Koys are relatively interchangeable: they’re all greedy; they’re all violent; they’re all about to meet some horrifically violent end at the hands of Boy. Some of these wannabe Hunger Games capitol citizens are more memorable than others. Dockery’s Melanie is initially positioned as the big-bad ringleader of the family, but it’s Brett Gelman’s fur coat-clad Gideon who ends up being the true standout with his bone-dry delivery.

Famke Janssen is a compelling third-act addition as Hilda Van Der Koy, and the wholeheartedness with which she throws herself into her dialogue is probably more than the film deserves. Jessica Rothe’s June27 (that’s literally the character’s name) is similarly underwritten and enters the game too late to be effectively used. Her helmet gimmick is mistakenly substituted for a personality—a truly grievous waste of a charming young talent.

While the dialogue, world-building, and characters may be lackluster, there’s one thing that Boy Kills World can always be relied upon to deliver, and that’s violence. Brutal and ultra-bloody, Boy Kills World’s fight scenes border on video-game-esque, with characters snapping broken bones back into place and huffing fumes to bolster their strength. With an assist from Michael Mitchell’s cringe-inducing (in a good way) sound design, Boy Kills World’s fight scenes are sometimes overlong, but never flat-out boring.



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