Boy Kills World (2023)

by - April 26th, 2024 - Movie Reviews


Game Boy Kills World is a Repetitive Action Extravaganza

Boy Kills World is a video game adaptation that’s not actually based on an existing video game. The film is essentially a series of boss battles as the unnamed “Boy” (Bill Skarsgård) of the title makes his way across a dystopian landscape in the pursuit of killing the head of the powerful Van Der Koy dynasty, Hilda (Famke Janssen). With each action sequence, director Moritz Mohr ups the level of intensity, building to a climactic face-off against international sensation Yayan Ruhian, best known for his memorable appearances in similarly violent extravaganzas like The Raid: Redemption, The Raid 2, and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.

Boy Kills World (2023) | PHOTO: Roadside Attractions

The problem is that, at almost two hours, the film is way too long. This wouldn’t be that much of an issue if the narrative’s key central comedic hook — Boy is a deaf-mute whose internal voice is provided by Emmy-winning Bob’s Burgers star H. Jon Benjamin — didn’t lose its dopey charm roughly halfway through. Also, as impressively staged as they may be, the fight choreography grows increasingly stale, and it’s not until that climactic bout with Ruhian that things spring spectacularly back to life.

I don’t hold any of the picture’s missteps against screenwriters Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers. What began as a proof-of-concept short quickly became a feature-length endeavor, and while the strain of going from the former to the latter is apparent, it’s not like action films haven’t been built on equally flimsy foundations for decades: Hero is wronged. Hero trains to get revenge. Hero goes on a quest to achieve just that. We’ve seen this tale umpteen times before, and we’ll keep seeing comparable variations in the future.

The reason this one gets tedious has everything to do with repetition. The first set piece is explosive enough, with Boy laying siege to some sort of industrial work center warehouse where indentured prison laborers are building…something (I don’t really know what, and it probably doesn’t matter). During this brawl, he frees a revolutionary named Benny (Isaiah Mustafa), who will help him in his mission to take down the Van Der Koys.

Soon after, we have another clash inside a lavish mansion, where the Van Der Koys are supposedly having a celebratory feast, but other than a nifty bit with a cheese grater, there’s not much to talk about. Next, there’s a giant fracas on the set of the annual “culling,” a yearly spectacle where those who have stood up against the ruling elite are forced to fruitlessly run for their lives in front of a massive televised audience. This episode is notable for having costumed corporate mascots taking part in the carnage and for giving Boy fire-powered brass knuckles, but otherwise, it’s more of the same.

After that? We’re suddenly in The Raid: Redemption territory, with Boy battling his way up the Van Der Koy ladder as he ascends to a heavily fortified government penthouse to ultimately look Hilda straight in the eye and learn why she targeted him and his family for execution when he was still a child. There’s a twist coming at this point, but it’s one most viewers are going to have already figured out. It’s also unceremoniously tossed into the wastebasket almost as soon as it has been introduced.

Look, it isn’t like this nonsense is all that different than the basic plot outlines of any of the four John Wick entries. But they also meticulously build their worlds, adding intriguing character developments that allow the viewer to emotionally engage with everything John is desperately struggling to achieve. Additionally, while the entire franchise is built around a seemingly never-ending series of fight sequences, they’re rarely monotonous. Each one has its own distinctive flavor, and this (mostly) keeps them from becoming tiresome.

That’s not the case with Boy Kills World. While I liked a few of the goofier, idiosyncratic touches (Boy has extended conversations utilizing his internalized voice with the ghost of his murdered little sister Mina, delightfully portrayed by youngster Quinn Copeland), there weren’t enough of them to keep me fully engaged. I also felt like Jessica Rothe was wasted as the Van Der Koys’ unstoppable enforcer June27, and while it was nice seeing the Happy Death Day star doing something different, the film still does a poor job of making her character transitions come across as anything other than perfunctory.

Boy Kills World (2023) | PHOTO: Roadside Attractions

All of that being said, the climax featuring Skarsgård, Rothe, and Ruhian is extraordinary. The choreography is pugnaciously invigorating. The scene is beautifully edited by Lucian Barnard and stunningly shot by cinematographer Peter Matjasko. Acclaimed video game composer Ludvig Forssell’s cantankerously exuberant score commands attention. It’s a superlative finale overflowing with blood, sweat, tears, sneers, and likely a whole lot of cheers from the audience.

For some, this will be more than enough to warrant slipping their quarters into the gaming consul and pushing play. But not me. As magnificent as the ending may be, I wanted more (including a reason to care), and that’s game over as far as I’m concerned.

– Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle

Film Rating: 2 (out of 4)

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