Boy Kills World (TIFF) Review

Boy Kills World is a gory, action packed blast and a superb showcase for Bill Skarsgård’s action chops.

PLOT: A deaf and mute warrior (Bill Skarsgård) raised by a mysterious shaman (The Raid’s Yayan Ruhian) attempts to topple a repressive regime. 

REVIEW: Earlier this year, Bill Skarsgård played a suave villain in Keanu Reeves’ John Wick: Chapter 4, but notably stayed out of the action scenes. Had the movie been released after Boy Kills World, I think the part would have been radically reimagined, with the actor putting himself through the kind of physical transformation that changes careers. Watching the hulking, 6’3 actor blast his way through opponents in Boy Kills World, it’s hard to believe that the same guy, just a few years ago, was best known as Pennywise the Clown. Indeed, Boy Kills World is the perfect launchpad for Bill Skarsgård to become a major action hero (it bodes well for his next film – the remake of The Crow).

The movie itself is a pretty wild, dystopian action epic with heavy doses of black comedy and outrageousness mixed in. While Skarsgård’s character is mute, he narrates the film via his inner monologue, which has the actor affect a voice the character heard in an arcade game he liked to play before he lost his hearing. The character is also shown to be a master lip-reader, something which is used for comedy when he encounters Isaiah Mustafa (It: Chapter 2) as a particularly mumbly ally. 

The action in this movie kicks off early, with the premise being that the titular “boy” is an orphan after his family was killed by the minions of his city’s evil ruler, Hilda van der Koy (Famke Janssen). Every year, the van der Koy’s have a ritualistic “culling” where they murder civilians live on TV. The Boy has himself taken so that he can kill his way to Hilda, with him facing off with Hilda’s son Gideon (Brett Gelman) and her two daughters, Melanie (Michelle Dockery) and June 27 (Jessica Rothe). The latter is an LED-helmet-wearing badass, whose skills rival Boy’s (as does her physique, with Rothe wearing a midriff-bearing jumpsuit that shows off her shredded abs). 

The movie is absolutely jam-packed with action, with it being a mix of hand-to-hand and gunplay, most of which seems to be done by Skarsgård himself. Some of the gore has sprinklings of producer Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead worked in (perhaps). One of the most notably disgusting bits involves Boy using a box grater in a gory scrap, and another highlight is a hand-to-hand fight where his opponent keeps losing parts of his body. 

Of course, the action is way over the top, with it a hard-R rated actioner by design. The cast is unique in that neither Skarsgård nor Rothe are action veterans, making them feel like fresh choices to lead a movie like this. Andrew Koji is also cast against type in a mostly non-fighting role as a motormouthed resistance member who teams up with Boy, while Sharlto Copley also shows up to chew some scenery. Everyone seems to be relishing their chance to amp up the madness, especially Dockery in a role far removed from her iconic turn on Downton Abbey. She looks like she’s having a blast. Yayan Ruhian from The Raid movies has his most prominent role in a North American movie to date as Boy’s mentor, with him participating in the film’s best fight sequence – which seems a given.

Overall, I had a total blast with this demented actioner, which seems poised to become a cult hit following its debut at TIFF’s Midnight Madness. Director Moritz Mohr makes an impressive debut and with the film including enough world-building that it could easily spawn a franchise (check out the short that got him the job here).  Hopefully, a distributor steps up and gives this a theatrical release, as it feels like the type of movie that’s best enjoyed with an audience. For my part, I had a blast.

we review Boy Kills World


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