BOY KILLS WORLD gets a little too goofy but always kicks ass — Moviejawn

Boy Kills World

Directed by Moritz Mohr

Written by Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers

Starring Bill Skarsgåd, Jessica Rothe, Michelle Dockery, Famke Janssen

Rated R

Runtime: 111 minutes

In theaters April 26

by Alex Rudolph, Staff Writer

We used to get a lot of movies like this: low-to-mid-budget sci-fi action stuff from distributors like Cannon, Empire and Full Moon, things you’d hear about at the video store or from friends who couldn’t believe what their older sibling had recently watched, but never see any evidence of in the greater world. We get fewer of them now, but Sam Raimi, always a good eye for talent, has brought a great recent entry, Boy Kills World, to a wide audience.

This film started as a short from the feature’s director Moritz Mohr and co-writer Armend Remmers, and it has the energy of a piece of work from a couple people excited to see what they can get away with. Maybe if the short hadn’t gone anywhere, if it hadn’t caught Raimi’s eye, Moritz and Remmers would have come back with something a little smoother, rather than the thing we got, which is tonally somewhere between Cobra and Demolition Man. If I tell you it isn’t as good as either of those, I hope you’ll take it with the knowledge that I love those films and am in no way insulting Boy Kills World by grouping it in with them. I come not to bury Demolition Man’s child, but to praise it.

Like that film, Boy Kills World has a plot, but it’s just an outline to hang more exciting things from. Two of the main characters don’t even have real names. A boy named Boy (Bill Skarsgård) lost his family to an annually televised murder game show called “The Culling,” put on by the ruling family of the post-apocalyptic hell he’s grown up in. Since then, he’s been trained by a shaman (Yayan Ruhian, whose casting is the most explicit of the nods this film gives to the Raid series). You know how this goes: fists hit bamboo until they bleed and food is rationed out so conservatively it’s a surprise to everybody involved that the trainee doesn’t just starve to death.

Boy bases his new human weapon persona on a Street Figher II-like video game and, as he’s deaf and mute and never developed a voice, co-opts that game’s announcer’s as his internal monologue. It’s Skarsgård doing the physical acting, but H. Jon Benjamin’s voice narrates everything.

And Skarsgård shows up. He moves like a character in a video game, flipping from stoic to limb tornado as quickly as you’d tap out a Mortal Kombat combo. He’s been great in plenty of movies, just as strong at underplaying it in over-the-top stories (as he did in Barbarian and The Devil All The Time) as he is at exceeding everybody else’s mania (as he did in the It films). You hear he’s playing the Count in the upcoming Nosferatu movie and realize it makes perfect sense, which isn’t something you could really say for any other actor of his generation.

When you hear about “world building,” it usually means “too much lore at the expense of real characters and plot,” the kind of writing that lends itself to massive wikis and not much else. I’m not saying Boy Kills World has great characters and plot, but it engages in my favorite kind of world building, which is to say it throws a bunch of details at the screen and lets you rationalize them as you see fit. Nobody explains how the film’s economy works, nobody gives a history of the government. Stuff just happens.

There’s been some kind of capital-i Incident in this world and the film takes place in a post-apocalypse, but it’s a total grab bag from there. Some folks are wearing normal clothes, some have Mad Max get-ups, some look like Power Rangers, some just stepped out of a Hong Kong action movie. It’s like if the wildly-themed gangs of The Warriors made up all of civilization, rather than its outcasts. The movie follows continues that with its tone, jumping from training montages to fake cereal commercials to parkour runs to drug trips. When the story slows down (i.e. when a plot twist pops up that would be a big deal if you were emotionally invested in the movie’s plot (I was not)), you can just look at all the art direction and smile.

Here’s the part of the plot that matters: Boy wants to get revenge on the van der Koy family, led by Hilda (Famke Janssen) and filled out by character actors like Jessica Rothe, Sharlto Copley and Brett Gelman, who I’d have been much happier to see here a year ago, before his recent meltdown. The family runs everything and they have to pay. It’s a classic martial arts revenge plot that’s been recycled so often for a reason. The bad guys all have their own kung-fu/video game/anime traits and our main character is going to work his way up their hierarchy until they’re all mangled, dead or both.

There’s a lot of Fist of the North Star here, even a little Ricki-Oh, and Boy Kills World is smart to play everything as straight as those did. So many stories like this– and the combination of crowdfunding and cheap special effects have meant the creation of dozens of movies like WolfCop and Lazer Team and Turbo Kid and Kung Fury and Commando Ninja and The VelociPastor– fall apart for me at a trailer level. I just do not want my enjoyment of a story to be contingent on a creative team’s condescension to legitimately fun genre material. There is no reason to watch people smirk their way through a retelling of RoboCop when I already own and can watch RoboCop. The problem with Commando wasn’t that it needed more self-awareness. There were no problems with Commando. Don’t watch a Commando rip-off made by people who think Commando had problems.

The movie does falter a little here with Benjamin’s voiceover. His monotone is his thing and it works well in some other contexts, but his lack of affect is, ironically, one of the few aspects of Boy Kills World that gets too silly. The action and jokes work well enough without Benjamin mumbling hacky lines like “fatality” and “player one wins” over it all. He’s a little too Deadpool-y for a movie that would easily function so much better without him. The Boy’s muteness and deafness are an interesting part of his character and lead to smart filmmaking gimmicks, but axing the voiceover would have been a boon. If you told me Benjamin’s performance ruined the movie for you, I’d understand. You’re gonna have to tune some babbling out.

Here’s another thing that separates Boy Kills World from the bucket of tongue-in-cheek throwback sci-fi movies: it looks good. The effects aren’t cheap and the movie doesn’t rely on them too heavily anyway. The fighting could stand to be more coherently staged, but when big action frenzies break out, they look terrific. I prefer my fights clean and without too much CGI blood, but throwing a little Michael Bay chaos in here and there works well.

The filmmakers didn’t make a Crank movie, but then nobody’s made one of those in over a decade. It’s possible the best way to watch Boy Kills World is high or as discrete fight scenes ripped to YouTube. But it’s a hell of a lot of fun. The action rips. The main problem with Boy Kills World is that we no longer live in a world where studios crank out a half-dozen movies like it every month.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Verified by MonsterInsights