Boy Kills World

Am I too old to enjoy Boy Kills World? Or, has it missed its cultural prime?

Boy Kills World feels like a product of the early 2000s, cashing in on the success of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill series and Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy.  Moritz Mohr’s splatter action flick is just as violent as those two films, perhaps even more so.  But, its shameless excessiveness doesn’t make Mohr’s movie better.  In fact, Boy Kills World is so obsessed to push an extreme fighting style on to the audience that the film forgets to find a consistent tone, a sense of humour, or a grip.

Modern day Pennywise Bill Skarsgård plays an unnamed mute who has been detached from his family only to grow up under the supervision and guidance of a skilled shaman (Yayan Ruhian).  With years of training under his belt, an inability to feel remorse and a “cool voice” he’s adopted from an arcade game (H. Jon Benjamin providing the inner monologue), the boy is sent on the mission of his life: to slay the evil Hilda Van Der Koy (Famke Janssen of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) and her clan of crooks to fulfil a prophecy to avenge the death of his sister (Quinn Copeland) and mother.

Boy Kills World is either going to astound you or annoy you.  If you’re not a pre-teen trying to con their way into seeing an adults-only movie in a movie theatre (or, bafflingly enough, 14A in Ontario), you’ll probably fall into the latter crowd.  Mohr has made a movie that pulverizes your senses in all the wrong ways.  It’s slickness is smug, its visuals are vomitrocious and, all the while, H. Jon Benjamin’s gravely contributions confuse us.

H. Jon Benjamin may be the most confounding element to this entire mess.  Despite having distinguishable vocals, he has been able to create iconic characters; from Coach McGuirk on Home Movies, the titular spy on Archer, Bob Belcher on Bob’s Burgers, and a freakin’ can of mixed vegetables from Wet Hot American Summer.  I’m inclined to call Boy Kills World a career hit job or a trap for Benjamin but, really, it comes down to a bad decision made by the filmmaker.  Benjamin is given equal amounts of banter that pitch the movie as a self-aware comedy and a self-serious action movie.  It’s a terrible mix that places the actor in a helpless position with insufficient direction, and also creates a seething audience.  Aside from Skarsgârd (who salvages himself by being expressive and selling his brutal fight choreography well), the rest of the ensemble is left to flounder.  Everyone knows their in a ridiculous movie, but they don’t know what kind of film it is.

Boundless violent action flicks can work, as we’ve been taught by Guns Akimbo, the Crank franchise, and even Hardcore Henry (also co-starring Sharlto Copley, but in a more versatile role). But, they have to abide by their own logic. Mohr’s other unforgivable offence (sharing the strike with screenwriters Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers) is that the movie constantly overwrites its own rules, including a retroactive twist that erases over half the movie and angers the audience further.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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