Review: Boy Kills World Offers a Bloody, Action-Packed yet Messy Feature Film Debut Starring Bill Skarsgård

It feels like it’s based on a comic book; the visuals make me think it might be based on a video game. But in fact, Boy Kills World, the feature debut from filmmaker Moritz Mohr, is an original idea based only on his own short film of the same name. Somehow, that short was enough to convince producer Sam Raimi to come on board, and as a result, Mohr got himself a helluva cast to star in this revenge story set in a post-apocalyptic world in which a corrupt and murderous family rules over the land (whatever land that may be). 

A ripped Bill Skarsgård stars as a deaf-mute character known only as Boy, whose family was slaughtered when he was a boy (played by twins Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti) by Hilda Van Der Koy (Famke Janssen), the matriarch of the aforementioned family that has an annual event called The Culling, in which citizens deemed nonessential are unceremoniously killed. The Boy was especially close to his younger sister, Mina (Quinn Copeland), and he’s especially pissed off about her death, so he’s spent his entire life training under a mysterious shaman (Yayan Ruhian) to become a one-man killing machine, proficient in martial arts and all manner of weaponry. Boy can’t speak, but he is driven by an inner voice (specifically the voice of his favorite combat video game announcer, provided by the great H. Jon Benjamin) that urges him to kick every ass that gets in the way of his revenge goal.

When his training is finally complete, he runs into a couple of resistance fighters also looking to put an end to the Culling—Andrew Koji’s Basho and Isaiah Mustafa as Bennie (in a strange twist, although Boy can read lips almost flawlessly, something about Bennie makes it impossible to understand what he’s saying, which makes for some very funny miscommunications). It’s around this time that Boy also starts seeing visions of his little sister, who advises him, frequently argues with him, and even makes him question his mission for reasons that become clear as the film goes on.

We eventually meet the rest of the Van Der Koy family, including daughter Melanie (Michelle Dockery), her husband Glen (Sharlto Copley), and brother Gideon (Brett Gelman), all of whom are vying for power as mother Hilda seems to be losing her grip on reality—or so they think. They also have in their employ their own instrument of death, a helmet-wearing enforcer known as June 27, who is the only character in the film whose skill set seems to equal Boy’s. At no point does the film let up in terms of pacing, nor does it spare us anything in the blood-and-guts department. Parts of this film are positively brutal, mostly in a humorous way, but a little of this goes a long way—and there’s way more than a little of this here.

Boy Kills World feels like a fever dream most of the time, which allows the filmmaker to address issues of identity, memory, trauma, and the healing power of carnage. There are action sequences that are delirious and jaw-dropping; there are others that are pure mayhem and, as a result, confusing. And the final fight among three of the main characters (I’m not revealing which ones) gets so gory by the end, there should be no one left alive from all the blood-letting. At points, the film feels like more of an endurance test with an emphasis on sensory overload, but there are admittedly moments that are a great deal of fun. 

Skarsgård’s frequent look of bewilderment and confusion goes a long way, and Benjamin’s voice in general (in animation stalwarts like Dr. Katz, Archer, and Bob’s Burger) just makes me laugh more often than not in any situation. Other parts of the film are deeply annoying, especially Dockery and Gelman, who are overplaying their villain parts to such a degree I wish they had been the ones who had their tongues ripped out. Far from a great movie, Boy Kills World is probably the best of the action offerings currently in theaters, so I guess you could do worse—put that on the poster.

The film is now playing in theaters.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.