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MOVIE REVIEW: Bloody and extremely violent, ‘Boy Kills World’ is a great showcase of Bill Skarsgard’s range and physicality

Set in an unnamed city surrounded by forests and with no recognizable culture or ethnicity, ‘Boy Kills World’ is a violent, action-packed (yet comedic) revenge story that comes off more like a video game at times. There is a commentary here about how authoritarian regimes breed the sort of violence that is at the heart of this story, but it gets muddled in all the graphic displays of it. There is a tender space in this narrative, but it can get overshadowed by all the blood and gore.

This city is ruled by the iron-first of the Van Der Koy dynasty. It’s matriarch, Hilda Van Der Koy (Famke Janssen), has put an annual event, a culling, where revolutionaries and “enemies of the state” are executed in public. Our protagonist, a child called Boy (Bill Skarsgard) manages to survive one culling where he lost both his mother and sister (and was rendered deaf and mute as well). He was taken in by a mysterious man called the Shaman (Yayan Ruhian), who trains him to be a weapon with the sole purpose of assasinating Hilda Van Der Koy. His internal world is narrated by a voice (H. Jon Benjamin) from an old arcade fighting game he used to play with his sister (Quinn Copeland). 

Boy eventually gets his chance to take his revenge and sometimes guided, sometimes hindered by the hallucination of Nina, he enters in the lion’s den where he goes up against HIlda Van Der Koy, her army, and her family, played by Michelle Dockery, Brett Gelman, Sharlto Copley, and Jessica Rothe.

The film can be pretty straightforward. Boy trains and becomes a deadly human weapon and then, as he is older, he makes a go out of killing Hilda Van Der Koy. On the way, he meets up with the members of the resistance (Andrew Koji and Isaiah Mustafa) and manages to interact with the Van Der Koy family and we see a sort of deconstruction of what it probably feels like to be a part of despotic family. 

‘Boy Kills World’ plays off like a video game. Everything is hyper-real. The acting is overt and pronounced. It’s not a place for subtlety (except for Skarsgard, which I’ll get to later). Everything is big and explosive. Everything is fast-paced, relentless, and merciless. There’s some fantastic fight choreography that never lets up. It’s hard-hitting and brutal. In fact, it is sometimes shaky and cut so fast that we sometimes don’t understand the sense of place and time. What we do see is when the punches land, when the knives cut, when the blood spurts out, and the bones break. There’s a lot of emphasis here on the brutality. At first it feels fun and thrilling and exciting. After the first hour, though, it feels senseless and overdone.


The commentary on this kind of revenge seems very one-sided but interesting to delve into. We are living in a world of despots and authoritarian regimes. They lord over the people with such power that they can kill indiscriminately, and it fosters the kind of rebellion that will want to pay back blood with blood. Boy, in his killing spree, is positioned as someone with a justification for his homicidal rage. HIs family was killed, and he was trained and almost brain-washed to be nothing but a killer. But as the film unfolds and the way he wreaks havoc upon the Van Der Koy’s and their army (there’s a vicious fight scene involving a cheese grater that is going to be unforgettable) starts to put into question how much joy are we to take from all this violence?

What keeps the film grounded is Bill Skarsgard fantastic performance. His physicality and his ability to embody the role of a human weapon is terrific. I believe him. And without a single bit of dialogue (his character is mute), he is able to portray a vast number of feelings that is narrated in a hilarious manner by H. Jon Benjamin. Benjamin’s lines were written with a sort of naivete since he’s the voice of Boy’s inner monologue. He never had a childhood, and he never grew up in a normal world. In a way, he is still a little boy who knows nothing but to kill and this is represented by his monologue. Skarsgard then translates this perfectly with his facial reactions and it completely humanizes. It’s an amazing work that is enjoyable to watch throughout this film.

While the fight scenes get more and more intense, especially those that involve the Shaman and Rothe’s character, strangely a woman called June 27 (and this is never explained). These two people and Boy have the best fight scenes and are saved up for last. It’s almost like a ballet except it’s brutal and deadly.While the film manages to find a tender heart by the end, it’s a lot of bloody, gory violence to get through. It never pretends to be anything deeper than a revenge film, though it does a pretty good 180 degree turn by its end that somehow softens the films hard edges but other than Bill Skarsgard’s portrayal of Boy.

My Rating:

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Boy Kills World
Action, Science Fiction, Thriller
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