Boy Kills World (2024)

Director: Moritz Mohr

Running Time: 111 Minutes

Certification: 18

Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jessica Rothe, Michelle Dockery, Brett Gelman, Isiah Mustafa, Andrew Koji, Famke Janssen, Sharlto Copley, Yayan Ruhian, H. Jon Benjamin, François Chau

The feature debut of director Moritz Mohr, Boy Kills World introduces viewers to its dire reality through an event called The Culling. Occurring once a year, The Culling sees the powerful Van Der Koy family gather up 12 perceived threats to be executed on live TV. One of the survivors is a young child, who experiences tragic loss when his family are murdered and he is made deaf-mute. Trained in the jungle by a Shaman (Yayan Ruhian), Boy (Bill Skarsgård) is honed into an instrument of death that is ready to enact bloody vengeance.

Inspired by comic-books and arcade games, those elements are woven into this film's DNA and appear evident throughout, from the way scenes are shot, to character designs. This is especially true of the titular lead, whose tragic backstory, fighting prowess, and intense stare feels like the perfect intersection of inspirations. Skarsgård brings an expressiveness to this deaf-mute soldier, shaped to kill the ruler of this totalitarian regime after having his childhood stolen. As a result of his childish imagination being repressed for years, it bursts forth throughout in ways that usually involve visions of his younger sister.

Responsible for this messed up regime are the Van Der Koy's, a family who feel like Succession's Roy siblings prospering in The Hunger Games. Ready to throw one-another under the bus for personal gain, there is little love felt between these family members intent on upholding their cushy way of life, by marketing themselves as saviours to mask how they are murderous tyrants. Special mentions are deserved for Jessica Rothe as June27, the Van Der Koy's personal assassin who wears an expressive helmet, and Andrew Koji on entertaining form as rebellion member Basho.

While the setting screams "dystopian hellhole", the bleak reality is offset by an irreverent sense of humour largely driven by H. Jon Benjamin's vocal performance as Boy's inner voice. Considering the film's festival run had Skarsgård delivering the voiceover, this recasting adds a funny layer as the voice comes from a video-game the lead played a lot in his childhood. As numerous seasons of Bob's Burgers and Archer have drawn terrific comedy from Benjamin's tremendous line readings, it seems like an ingenious casting choice.

That canny choice unfortunately works better in theory than in execution, as Benjamin can only do so much with the lackluster jokes that he has to deliver. As such, his voiceover sadly grows tiring the longer that it is included for. The same could be said regarding Benny, a resistance member whose lips Boy struggles to read. What begins as fun imaginings of the nonsense lines Isiah Mustafa delivers unfortunately becomes a drawn-out idea. Screenwriters Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers have many fun ideas, yet they are let down by the execution which feels Deadpool-lite.

Where the film excels are the action sequences, fitting the aesthetic by vividly realising the blood-soaked brawls in pulse-pounding ways. From a seemingly unending fight with a guard that has "issues", to a kitchen brawl which one-ups Evil Dead Rise for skin-crawling use of a cheese grater, these sequences fantastically fit the established aesthetic. The stand-out sequence is the final fight, where the brutal physicality works in tandem with close-ups of the inflicted damage, ensuring that each hit leaves viewers wincing. When the physical brutality is delivered so terrifically in Boy Kills World, it is unfortunate that the overwhelming humour drags down an otherwise stellar feature.

Boy Kills World is now available on Digital Platforms, and is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and UHD from 5th August.