de facto film reviews 3 stars

Boy Kills World is a pastiche of homages and genres, even forms. The film is packed with some stunning imagery, yet none of it is especially novel or clever. This is not a problem, except in how it prevents the film from reaching the heights for which it seems to be striving. The cast is excellent, in terms of talent, yet nobody really shines, except perhaps Sharlto Copley, who plays another of his patented low-rent striving to be high rent turds, and Bill Skarsgard, who has to do much emoting without the use of his voice. It is that voice, however, which shines, for while the actor playing the physical form of Boy does not speak, H. Jon Benjamin steals the entire show as Boy’s inner voice.

Benjamin provides much needed relief, both contrasting and complimenting the gory, intense imagery on display. You also get a perfect sense of just how stunted Boy’s growth is. His entire ethos, other than being a killing machine, is that of a twelve-year-old, complete with inner fantasy life based on video games. The film is replete with references to games, from Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, to Metal Gear Solid and even Doom. There are sequences lifted straight from South Korean cinema, namely the use, more than once, of the side-scrolling sequence, itself borrowed from gaming, seen in Oldboy.

Boy Kills World

Courtesy Roadside Attractions

There are traces of Tarantino, especially in how he uses Hong Kong cinema as an inspiration, as well as residuals from the works of Zack Snyder-the slow motion that occasionally takes over, and some of the colors being washed for certain scenes-and even Bekmambetov’s vampire duology, Nightwatch/Daywatch. If this sounds messy, it is, and it if sounds off-putting, it can be, as this is a hard-r film, full of explicit violence which often exists just for spectacle and shock value. There are some twists along the way, both expected and only slightly surprising. The film could have benefited from a dose of seriousness, a real investigation into trauma and memory. But that was not what the makers were after.

 Instead, we have what Taika Waititi would refer to as “their own awesome movie” and on a visceral, adrenaline and check your brain at the door type of level, it is pretty damn awesome, with that hilarious inner voice being the main attraction. The film is indeed a video game come to life, in as much as that is how Boy sees the world. Take for instance, an early fight between Boy and a character called Eddie. This fight plays out with Boy declaring victory, in a way which any Mortal Kombat player will smile about, only to have to keep putting his opponent down. This too is the hated “second and even third form” of some bosses, from video games. In this, the film imitates some of Scott Pilgrim, though without the angst or the nerd-culture winking. I told you the film was drawing from lots of sources.

When the film concludes, how you feel will be largely based on if you bought into the twists and if the last act worked. Yet, there is much in those early and middle sequences to recommend the work. Again, H. Jon Benjamin speaking the line “My team is back” gave this reviewer a smile in only the way a viewer of Archer might appreciate. Indeed, this was no coincidence, as the film came dangerously close to having him shout out “Lana” or “Phrasing” and, did, in fact, figure out a way to include this last bit. Yes, there are times the character of Boy explains phrases or wonders about them, and how they connect to his story. So, in a sense, your enjoyment may depend just as much on how much pop culture you have consumed. I am going to give this one a very slight recommendation, because yeah, it’s that wild, that fun, and HJB is a god.

BOY KILLS WORLD opens in theaters on Friday April 26th