Features Live Action Movies

Boy Kills World

Director – Moritz Mohr – 2023 – Germany, US, South Africa – Cert. 18 – 111m


Relentless, non-stop action via a deaf-mute, orphaned kid, schooled in martial arts, returning to the city as a grown man to wreak vengeance on those who killed his family – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 26th

Elite family the Van Der Koys have taken control of the city and instigated an annual ceremony known as The Culling, a physical contest staged for television in a vast arena in which anyone who opposes the Van Der Koys and the way they run the place is killed. This was of little concern to Boy, who as a child (twins Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti from TV series Big Little Lies, 2017-19) grew up in a carefree existence eating Frosty Pops cereal every morning with his sister Mina (Quinn Copeland) and, the pair naively making insulting hand gestures at publicly displayed Van Der Koy statues during the day which gets their family onto the list of candidates for The Culling. And so his parents and sister are despatched in the ceremony, leaving Boy a traumatised deaf-mute.

All of the above comes out early on in a mixture of flashback and over-the-top interior monologue (hilariously voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) as Boy, having fled from the city into the surrounding jungle (the film was shot in and around South Africa’s Cape Town) spends time with his chosen, long-haired mentor (Yayan Ruhian from The Raid / 2011 and The Raid 2 / 2014, both Garth Evans) training in martial arts for the specific purpose of exacting his revenge on the Van Der Koy family by killing its powerful matriarch Hilda (Famke Janssen). The years of training pass, and Boy grows to adulthood (now played by Bill Skarsgård from John Wick Chapter 4, Chad Stahelski, 2023; It, Andy Muschietti, 2017), his stomach developing an impossibly muscular six-pack.

This training requires intense focus on Boy’s part, but his inner world is disrupted by a crunching sound: Mina crushing a Frosty Pop between her teeth. And it’s not just the sound: throughout the narrative, she is always visibly there in his head and his memories, forever a child, his constant and frequently visible interior companion, offering level-headed advice on whatever is currently happening in his world.

And once Boy has trained and returned to the city, which isn’t that far into the film, there’s a lot happening. Not so much in terms of plot, most of which you could write on a postage stamp, but in terms of action as Boy punches and shoots his way through the Van Der Koy family with aid from members of the resistance. Bodies fly through the air, limbs and heads are bloodily sliced off in one faultlessly choreographed set-piece after another. The most memorable of these involves a cheese grater.

At this point, I should probably mention that if you’re expecting vast numbers of members of the despotic regime or the resistance massed against it, that doesn’t really happen; director Moritz seems to like very small groups of people realising fight scenes and an awful lot of one-on-one action. This is not like the climb to the Sacre-Coeur of John Wick Chapter 4 in which the hero contends with one adversary after another on his way to the top, more like a series of impressive, mostly one-on-one, fight scenes with various cast members in different locations, many of which feel like underground bunkers, corridors or tunnels.

The resistance mostly comprises Benny (Isaiah Mustafa from It: Chapter Two, Andy Muschietti, 2019) and Basho (Andrew Koji from Bullet Train, David Leitch, 2022), while the Van Der Koys include Glen (Brett Gelman), who is obsessed with writing speeches, Gideon (Sharlto Copley), who is unable to deliver them because they’re so badly written, the executive-minded June 27 (Michelle Dockery, in a very different role here from Downton Abbey, TV series, 2010-15) and Melanie (Jessica Rothe) who wears a motorcycle helmet through which she communicates verbally with the outside world via LED. The ruthless matriarch Hilda (Famke Janssen) is wisely saved for the most part for the final reel, when Boy catches up with her for the showdown.

It’s not clear why or how or at exactly what point the Van Der Koys took control of the city, which location is never labelled with any name beyond that generic moniker. A potentially fascinating sub-plot concerns a breakfast cereal company sponsoring The Culling, with giant pineapples and an inexplicable extra in an octopus costume wandering around the lethal game show set, a great idea which, sadly, no-one bothered to develop. There’s no indication of why the Van Der Koys are the bad guys apart from, they are the bad guys.

What the film has in its favour is its near-relentless delivery of non-stop action from the moment it starts, augmented with a fair volume of physical prosthetic effects for bodily wounds, including the severing of limbs and heads, for its numerous fight scenes. The interior voice-over is particularly effective for the opening twenty minutes or so, adding in just the right degree of wit to leaven the proceedings, which is enough to keep the momentum going through the remainder. If you want more than the action and the hilarious voice-over, you’re probably going to be disappointed; but if those two elements are what you came for, then you probably won’t be.

Boy Kills World is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, April 26th.


Trailer 2 (Cert. 18):

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