Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Boy Kills World: A Review



I am not big on violent films, finding graphic depictions of death very distasteful. That being said, I found that Boy Kills World is surprisingly entertaining, even if on familiar ground.

Boy (Bill Skarsgard) has been trained for years by a reclusive figure named Shaman (Yayan Ruhian) in the art of killing. Boy's task is to avenge the deaths of Boy's mother and sister at the hands of the villainous Van Der Koy family. The murderous matriarch, Hilda (Famke Janssen) murdered them in cold blood and left Boy to dangle to his death until Shaman rescued him. Boy, despite being deaf & mute due to the Van Der Koy's evil ways, is able to read lips. 

Boy may not be quite ready to take down the Van Der Koy dictatorship, but into the breech he goes. With help from forced labor Basho (Andrew Koji) and Bennie (Isaiah Mustafa), whose lips he cannot read and thus not fully understand, Boy begins his bloody takedown of the Van Der Koys. That means going after such figures as Glen Van Der Koy (Sharlto Copley), deranged television show host whose program broadcasts the annual killings. There is also his crazed wife Melanie (Michelle Dockery) and her brother, Gideon (Brett Gelman), whose artistic vision is perpetually thwarted by his in-laws. As more mayhem and blood goes around, Boy discovers his true identity as that of June 27 (Jessica Rothe), the masked hitwoman who is tied to all.

Will Boy manage to lead the revolution? Will shocking twists bring a crisis for him? Who will triumph in this battle royale?

I respect, even admire, films that are fully aware without being self-aware. Boy Kills World is such a film. It does not pretend to be a deep exploration of the human condition. It is not even a deep exploration of Boy's condition. Instead, it is about bloody, over-the-top action. In that respect, Boy Kills World delivers. Sometimes the violence was a bit shocking to me (Glen's bloody end took me so much by surprise that I literally gasped). I also may never look at a cheese grater the same way again.

However, while Boy Kills World was at times a bit more gruesome for my tastes, I also see that the film worked to be serious in its deliberately looney manner. It embraced its outlandishness without winking to the camera or mocking the viewer. I would go as far as saying that Boy Kills World actually has respect for the viewer, giving him/her what they want without talking down to them.

Director Moritz Mohr, who cowrote the screenplay with Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers, all know the tropes of something like Boy Kills World. You even have Boy's voiceovers in an exaggerated manner mimicking a video game narrator (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin). You are given an explanation for this, and initially I thought the voiceover would become a distraction. Instead, it blended well with the overall tone of the film.

As Boy has to rely on his internal voice to give us some insight into him, we have to rely on Bill Skarsgard's face to express more. He does quite well in giving us Boy's mindset. Skarsgard gives us everything from Boy's determination to confusion on what he cannot understand. A running gag involves his inability to read Bennie's lips, thus making what he thinks he says bizarre. Each misinterpretation is hilarious, and Skarsgard's performance reveals that mix of befuddlement and frustration.

It is almost shocking to see Dockery, the embodiment of posh Downton Abbey, so fully committed to this wild and whacked out murderess hostess. She was for me a highlight of Boy Kills World: though her role was small, she made the most of it. Gelman too shone as Gideon, far more interested in the theatrics of things than on human life. To be fair, I thought the initial argument between him and Copley was a bit too hammy for the overtly wild goings-on, but that was a minor matter. 

Rothe, perhaps the most serious of the performers, makes for an excellent hitwoman. Koji is a standout as the outrageous Basho, leader of this revolution, crazed but loyal. Quinn Copeland did well as Mina, Boy's vision of his late sister. She actually provided the few moments of drama, though having her spout off vulgarities is both old hat and something I am not big on.

As everyone was meant to be over-the-top to downright hammy, I cut them some slack.

This is not to say that Boy Kills World is idiotic. Far from it. Instead, it is knowingly aware of its premise. As such, everyone adopts the outrageous and rapid-fire manner of Boy Kills World without making things stupid. There is a fine line between ridiculous and stupid, and the film keeps to it. Fun, outlandish but never idiotic, Boy Kills World knows what it is, does not pretend to be anything else and gives the viewer what he/she came for. 

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