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James Berardinelli review - *** out of ****

Bonkers. That’s one way to describe the stylistic, chaotic splurge of blood, gore, and action that characterizes Mortiz Mohr’s feature debut, Boy Kills World. A comedy that leans heavily into the grand guignol before imbibing deeply from a potion spiked with adrenaline, this film comes closest to answering the question of what a script developed by Monty Python might look like if directed by Quentin Tarantino. The knock against the movie is that the momentum flags and it starts spinning its wheels during the final half-hour as the comedy fragments in favor of narrative-based resolutions. Still, it’s as refreshingly different a movie as I have seen in a while.

Boy Kills World’s look and feel show a strong comic book influence, although this is an original product from Mohr and Arend Remmers that is allegedly not based on any one particular source. Much of the movie’s comedy comes from one particular conceit. The main character, known only as “Boy” (and played with a single-minded focus by Bill Skarsgard) is a deaf-mute. Being unable to speak doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything to say, though. His internal voice, which frequently offers up one-liners and sarcastic commentary, is provided by H. Jon Benjamin, best known for his work on the animated TV shows Bob’s Burgers and Archer. Benjamin has just the right timber, tone, and inflection to do full justice to the lines credited to Tyler Burton Smith and Remmers.

The movie transpires in a Dystopian Future (TM) where everything is controlled by the fascist dictator Hilda Van Der Koy (Famke Janssen) and the members of her family – sister Melanie (Michelle Dockery), brother Gideon (Brett Gelman), and Melanie’s husband, Glen (Sharlto Copley). In order to continue their rule of terror, the Van Der Koys maintain a tradition called “The Culling.” Once per year, a dozen of Hilda’s “enemies” are executed on national television. Boy’s backstory, which is gradually revealed through flashbacks, indicates that he was the sole survivor of a Culling in which his mother and sister were murdered. His life was saved by the mysterious Shaman (Yayan Ruhian), who teaches him to become a killing machine with one single goal: to avenge his family. Shaman’s methods, although effective, aren’t the kinds of things that Mr. Miyagi would approve of.

Allusions to Kill Bill and The Hunger Games seem too obvious to be unintentional. Mohr enjoys taking pop culture touchstones and making them his own. The Tarantino/Kill Bill vibe is stronger than just one costume and the whole means by which Hilda maintains her grip on power is reflective of Suzanne Collins’ worldbuilding. And, just as the President of Panem used the media-frenzy surrounding the Games to amplify his position of power, so Hilda (and her siblings) does something similar with The Culling (and, in a bit of unsubtle satire, the whole bloody event is sponsored by Frosty Puffs sugary cereal).

To his credit, Mohr keeps things moving at a frantic pace for almost 90 minutes before exhaustion and the need to provide closure traps him. Somewhere around the 3/4 mark, Boy Kills World stops being funny and, as excessively violent as the climactic battles are, they don’t offer anything we haven’t seen before. When the warped humor and unallayed brutality are working hand-in-hand, this is a fun (if bizarre) experience. It’s not a complete package but it’s fresher than much of what’s out there today and is difficult to dismiss even if it sometimes feels like a graphic novel married to a video game.