‘Boy Kills World’ Review: A Wide-Eyed Assassin

At least give it up for the stunt crew on “Boy Kills World,” a boneheaded action movie that gives some exceedingly fit performers — its hard-body star Bill Skarsgard very much included — a chance to flaunt their physical skills. To judge from all the grunting, the straining muscles and cascading sweat, Skarsgard, along with a few of his nimble co-stars and an army of stunt performers, puts in serious work to try to make the relentless bashing and smashing, flailing and dying look good. Too bad the filmmakers were incapable of doing the same.

Set in a discount dystopian hellscape, the story centers on, ta-da, Boy (Skarsgard), a saucer-eyed dynamo with an uninteresting back story who can neither hear nor talk. Once upon a time, for reasons that are laboriously teased out, he landed in the jungle, where he was taken under wing by a punishing caretaker, the Shaman. This cat is played with a lot of grimacing by the Indonesian martial-arts phenom Yayan Ruhian, of the “Raid” movies. Ruhian also shows up in “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum,” which isn’t good, yet is still better than “Boy Kills World” because it was made by people who know how to showcase stunt fighting.

“Boy Kills World,” by contrast, consistently undermines its stunts with frustratingly clumsy filmmaking. Again and again, the frantic camera goes overly close when it should go wide — turning bodies into a chaotic jumble of parts — and the choppy over-editing makes matters worse. I’m not sure what the director Moritz Mohr thought he was doing here. (Sam Raimi is one of the producers.) It’s also unclear why anyone even bothered to concoct a story for Boy, because the only point of this ridiculousness is to watch Skarsgard flex his sculpted arms and take a great deal of brutal punishment so that he can dole out more. Rinse, repeat.

The story involves, yup, a revenge mission that the filmmakers fuss with by toggling between the past and present but that mostly finds Boy hunting a cartoon despot (Famke Janssen) and her minions (Jessica Rothe, Michelle Dockery, Brett Gelman). Andrew Koji also shows up as a sidekick for Boy, whom Skarsgard plays as a guileless killing machine. As he did in “It,” the actor makes shrewd use of the whites of his eyes, turning them into attention-grabbing beacons. That’s understandable given that another actor (H. Jon Benjamin, of “Bob’s Burgers”) provides Boy’s internal voice using a putatively humorous tough-guy drone. This gimmick gets old fast, as does the movie, even as its hero and ideas remain underbaked.

Boy Kills World
Rated R for action movie fighting and killing. Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes. In theaters.

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