Boy Kills World is “a lot” in every way. Its story, aesthetic, tone, and production are all big, loud, and over-the-top. It’s a classic revenge story that combines Kill Bill and Oldboy with The Running Man and The Hunger Games, but with a silly, Deadpool-esque comedic sensibility. It has everything it needs to succeed to be fun and entertaining, including some absolutely fantastic performances. Unfortunately, it never even comes close to working. Despite being “a lot,” there’s just not much to Boy Kills World, a movie that is all style and no substance which fails to achieve almost everything it tries to accomplish.

Boy Kills World follows Bill Skarsgård’s mute, deaf Boy who has spent his life under the tutelage of Yayan Ruhian’s opium-addicted martial arts master called Shaman. (Shaman is a character that, at minimum, borders on “blatantly offensive.”) Boy has spent years training for a revenge mission against his world’s dystopian leaders, the Van Der Koy family. They killed his mom and baby sister and left him mutilated. Famke Janssen’s Hilda is the clan’s ruler, and the Van Der Koys use an annual TV show called “The Culling” to murder enemies. A kid’s cereal doesn’t just sponsor “The Culling,” its mascots perform the executions on the show.

Both Skarsgård’s easy-to-love Boy and the detestable Van Der Koys are the best parts of the movie. They’re actually the only thing it really has going for it. Janssen is underused but excellent as the paranoid matriarch and tyrant. Michelle Dockery is a standout as Hilda’s sister Melanie, the ruthless sibling in charge of public relations for the whole family. Brett Gelman provides a much needed counterpoint to them as their artistic brother who has grown tired of this life. And Sharlto Copley is wildly entertaining as Melanie’s idiot husband and popular host of “The Culling.” All of their performances deserved a much better movie, and without them Boy Kills World would be nearly unwatchable.

A bloodied Bill Skarsgård in a red vest in Boy Kills World

That might sound harsh, but it’s not great when the “action” in an action-film is easily one of the worst parts of the movie. Director Moritz Mohr doesn’t let his (many) fight sequences stand on their own. They’re clearly well-performed and choreographed, but his camera never stops moving during them, entirely to the movie’s detriment. At best, the action scenes are disorienting. At worst, they are hard-to-watch, as his shaky cam approach fails to put you in the middle of the action. Instead it makes you feel like you’re getting sick on an amusement park ride. Sometimes it’s not even clear what’s going on during those sequences, but even when you can clearly follow the action, they are not fun—a phrase that also best sums up the movie.

The only thing worse than the film’s action sequences are its attempts at comedy. Boy Kills World is desperate to be funny, and that desperation does not do it any favors. The overwhelming majority of its humor is forced, like the unfunniest person in a group who won’t stop trying to make everyone laugh. You know, the less everybody laughs at them, the louder, brasher, more obnoxious they get. That bombastic approach at humor is instantly grating.

A lot of that is due to how the movie misuses H. Jon Benjamin, the inner voice of Boy. Benjamin (no surprise) is not the problem with the narration. The problem is what the script gives him to say isn’t funny. And since he narrates roughly 85% of the film, its a huge problem. The movie literally can’t stop reminding us how unfunny it is.

The only real, genuine moments of levity come from some very subtle, very funny faces Bill Skarsgård makes. His Boy doesn’t always know what’s going on, and Skarsgård’s ability to convey that confusion with just a raised eyebrow is authentically funny in a way almost nothing else in this try-hard film is.


Boy Kills World also tries really hard to be something it’s not in the third act. That’s when an intentionally absurd movie suddenly decides to try and be a lot more dramatic and serious. It’s an inexplicable, totally unearned change in tone. The result is a finale of twists and turns that feels as empty as the first two acts. It’s as though Boy Kills World suddenly realizes it is not working as a fun, entertaining action film so it tries to be something else entirely, an emotional, heartfelt story. Only, nothing in the final act lands an emotional punch despite the movie’s obvious desperation to make you feel something.

It’s a lot, but like everything else with Boy Kills World, it never amounts to much.

Boy Kills World

Boy Kills World hits theaters on April 26, 2024.

Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist who is preeeetty sure he wouldn’t watch Boy Kills World’s The Culling. You can follow him on  Twitter and Bluesky at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.