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Boy Kills World ★★★



Released: 26 April 2024

Director: Moritz Mohr

Starring: Bill Skargard, Famke Janssen, Yayan Ruhian

2024 looks like a killer year for Bill Skarsgård. Best known for his role as Pennywise in Stephen King’s It Chapters One and Two, he has been delivering notable performances in the action and horror genres, with this year seeing him lead on two intriguing remakes – The Crow and Nosferatu. Another 2024 release is Boy Kills World, the directorial debut of Moritz Mohr that premiered at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. 

Boy Kills World takes place in a dystopian society that is dominated by a powerful family, the Van Der Koys led by matriarch Hilda (Famke Janssen), who hold an annual culling to rid them of their enemies in the name of public safety. After his mother and sister were killed, an unnamed boy escapes to the jungle and is raised and trained by a mysterious shaman (Yayan Ruhian) in survival and combat skills. As an adult, the now deaf-mute man (Skarsgård) prepares to avenge his family.

At first glance, Boy Kills World looks like a typical revenge film – there is the athletic but emotionally scarred hero, the strong yet silent mentor, and several cocky villains with a menacing henchman (or in this case, an axe-wielding henchwoman played by Jessica Rothe) ready to do their bidding. These familiar elements initially form a foundation for Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers’ uneven screenplay, which features campy dialogue and the odd plot twist as it follows the Boy’s violent mission. Amid the odd high-octane fight and chase, the protagonist’s confusion from unrefined lip-reading skills brings light relief, as do his imaginary conversations between the him and his younger sister Mina  – bonding over dress-up and macarons, their interactions convey the last semblance of sanity and happiness in the Boy’s broken mind as Mina’s innocence softens his violent tendencies albeit momentarily.

As the unnamed hero, Skarsgård’s energetic performance brilliantly portrays a lean, mean fighting machine who acts first and thinks second. His deafness and muteness prevents him from being reasonable (or reasoned with) so he is solely driven by his need for revenge, becoming a one-man wrecking ball. Behind his impressive physicality, the Boy’s inner voice, eloquently delivered by H. Jon Benjamin, allows the protagonist’s child-like wonder to shine.

With our hero being silent yet deadly, the supporting characters are noticeably extra talkative with their own agendas. Revolutionaries Benny (Andrew Koji) and Basho (Isaiah Amir Mustafa) are super-excited to have the Boy on their side to take down the van der Koys. Meanwhile, PR guru Melanie van der Koy (Michelle Dockery), her weasel husband Glen (Sharlto Copley) and her brother, aspiring writer Gideon (Brett Gelman) are caught up in publicising and glamourising the culling into a huge televised event amid some family drama. The different plans of each character predictably leads to narcissistic clashes and underused performances, notably Janssen, Rothe and Ruhian.

In his first film, Mohr’s direction highlights visual inspirations from arcade video games, modern action films, The Hunger Games and even producer Sam Raimi. The combination of these elements result a blood-splattered canvas of mayhem with an overwhelming mish-mash of styles, sewn together by fast and choppy edits. Nonetheless, there is a fun factor behind the bloodshed. Skarsgård, similar to Dev Patel in Monkey Man, shapes himself as a graceful action star while Dawid Szatarski (Black Widow, Guns Akimbo)’s fight choreography is both creative and fast-paced, culminating into a three-way battle that rivals the climax of The Raid.

Although the plot falls short towards the end, Boy Kills World offers a solid dose of entertaining, intense action. Action film fans will love the heft of martial arts but when it gets inventive, be prepared to wince.

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