Skip to main content

Boy Kills World review: You deserve better than this

A man stands in an elevator in Boy Kills World.
Boy Kills World
“Boy Kills World is a movie full of loose parts that don't really connect, and it succeeds in only wanting you to watch other, better action movies.”
  • Some of the kills are inventive
  • Bill Skarsgård's abs
  • Derivative story
  • Cardboard characters
  • By-the-numbers action scenes
  • Tries too hard to be cool

When someone uses that old quote, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” to describe or critique a movie, it’s usually meant as a faint form of praise. It means the creatives involved have done their homework, that the director or writer has liberally borrowed from past movies or tropes to create something, while not entirely original, fresh and entertaining. Think Quentin Tarantino‘s Kill Bill movies or, less highbrow but almost as much fun, David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde.

After I finished Boy Kills World, I was reminded of that quote in its fullest form and original meaning: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” But to call Boy Kills World mediocre is wrong; it’s not even that good. It’s bad in ways that numb the soul and insult your intelligence. It’s probably the world’s first tryhard action movie — it so badly wants to be the next cult classic that it doesn’t bother coming up with any interesting characters, coherent plot, or even dynamic fight scenes. It’s a movie full of loose parts that don’t really connect, and it succeeds in only wanting you to watch other, better action movies.

A revenge tale as old as time

A man prepares to fight in Boy Kills World.

The plot is a classic revenge tale with barely any new spin on it. As a young child, Boy (Nicolas and Cameron Crovetti in flashbacks; Bill Skarsgård in the present) witnesses the brutal murder of his family, including his beloved mother and sister. He’s rescued by a shaman (Indonesian action star Yayan Ruhian, who isn’t even given the dignity of a character name here) who raises him in the jungle of an unnamed fictional country. Left deaf and mute by the attack, Boy grows up and becomes an expert fighter so that he can gain revenge on the cruel people who killed his family.

Who are these villains? They’re some sort of rich family who own seemingly everything and have absolute power over everyone. There’s Glen van der Koy (Sharlto Copley), an idiot with a Trump-like hairpiece and a tendency to accidentally shoot people; Gideon van der Koy (Brett Gelman), another idiot who fancies himself a writer; Melanie van der Koy (Michelle Dockery), whose only concern is how many people she can kill to boost her TV show’s ratings; and Hilda van der Koy (Famke Janssen), the matriarch who ordered the assassination of Boy’s family and is the object of his revenge.

A woman wears a helmet and yellow jacket in Boy Kills World.

There’s also June 27 (Jessica Rothe), a mysterious assassin who works for the van der Koy family, and who not coincidentally wears an outfit similar to the The Bride’s yellow jumpsuit in the House of Blue Leaves sequence in Kill Bill Vol. 1. (That outfit itself was inspired by Bruce Lee’s iconic look in Game of Death; you see how watered down this movie already is?) She also wears a bike helmet that displays her dialogue across her visor, even though she can speak and does so even when her helmet is still on. Why does she wear this helmet? Because it looks cool. There’s a lot of that in this movie — a preference for cheap, neat-looking visuals over any sense of logic.

Anyway, Bill teams up with two resistance members, Basho (Andrew Koji, whose Warrior series is so much better than this) and Benny (Isaiah Mustafa, who is only speaks gibberish Jive dialogue!) to infiltrate the van der Koy mansion and take them down one by one. Massive amounts of people are slaughtered on the way, of course, and the third act contains the requisite “surprises” that, if you’ve seen Oldboy or any M. Night Shyamalan movie, aren’t really all that surprising.

Boy bores world

A man stares ahead as two guys laugh in Boy Kills World.

It’s clear from the start that Boy Kills World has no interest in taking place in the real world and that it wants to be a loopy action-comedy that defies the laws of physics. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course; for what it was, I enjoyed Leitch’s 2022 Bullet Train in all of its derivative glory. But I enjoyed that movie because the plot was clear, the characters made sense and were interesting, and the action scenes connected in a way that were made to the movie’s own internal logic.

Too often, I felt the opposite while watching Boy Kills World. Every character, Boy included, is thinly drawn, and copies of others in the genre. For instance, there’s scene early on that depicts Boy rising from the grave, a shot that virtually matches Tarantino’s in Kill Bill Vol. 2. (Who, again, borrowed this from other movies in both the horror and action genres). Copley’s character seems straight out of The Running Man, while Dockery’s Melanie is like Faye Dunaway’s Diana Christensen in Network, only more outrageous and lethal.

A man in a suit looks ahead in Boy Kills World.

Rothe’s June 27 might as well be a stand-in for every mysterious female action heroine of the last 30 years: The Bride, Furiosa, hell, even Samus from the Metroid video game franchise. The acting direction for everyone seemed to be to play it at the highest volume, which isn’t that entertaining if there’s nothing different to play to. There are no levels here; it’s all “isn’t this cra-zy?” vibes from beginning to end, and it wears out its welcome pretty quickly.

A lethal case of deja vu

A man looks to his side in Boy Kills World.

It’s not just the characters that are the problem. Entire set pieces, like the showdown in the television studio arena that occurs late in the movie, feel lifted from other, slightly better movies. Didn’t The Hunger Games movies do that, but better? Even the action itself seems stilted; it’s like you can tell the point-by-point direction of the fight choreography in each scene. The constantly-swooping camera tries to energize some fights, but it mostly induces nausea.

And sure, the occasional cheese grater to the neck makes for a fine, gruesome visual, but if you’re constantly aware of how everything is being staged, it’s no fun — it takes you out of the fantasy. I was constantly made aware of how this movie was put together, and the scraps of other films it was made from.

Boy Kills World isn’t meant to be taken seriously; it flaunts its video game and comic book aesthetic like a proud teenage boy, and you can tell everyone involved thought it would be awesome to use Bob’s Burgers actor H. Jon Benjamin to monologue Boy’s thoughts, or to clothe their hero in a sick-looking red leather vest that is ready-made for the inevitable action figure.

Boy Kills World | Official Red Band Trailer | In theaters April 26

But great action movies like Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds, or even mid action films like The Equalizer or Wrath of Man, know that you have to invest in character and story first before earning your cool movie bona fides. Boy Kills World so desperately wants the sauce, but it just winds up empty in the end.

Boy Kills World is now playing in theaters nationwide.

Editors' Recommendations

Jason Struss
Section Editor, Entertainment
Jason is a writer, editor, and pop culture enthusiast whose love for cinema, television, and cheap comic books has led him to…
Operation Seawolf review: nice Nazis? No thanks!
Dolph Lundgren holds onto a pipe inside a U-Boat in a scene from Operation Seawolf.

At a time when anti-Semitic extremists are storming the U.S Capitol, running for office, and declaring war on Jewish people via social media, it might not be the best time for a movie that expects you to sympathize with Nazis. And yet, that hasn't stopped Operation Seawolf from sailing into theaters and on-demand streaming services this month.

The film, which follows the crew of a German U-boat during the waning days of World War II, casts Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV) as German war hero Capt. Hans Kessler, who's ordered to lead the Nazis' remaining U-boats on a desperate (and likely fatal) mission to attack the U.S. on its own soil. As he and his crew make their way toward New York City in one final bid to turn the tide of war, Kessler finds himself struggling with both the internal politics of the ship and his own sense of duty as the Third Reich crumbles around him.

Read more
The Woman King review: a thrilling period epic
Viola Davis holds a torch in The Woman King.

The Woman King opens purposefully and violently. The film’s first sequence, which brings to life a brutal battle from its sudden beginning all the way to its somber end, is a master class in visual storytelling. Not only does it allow director Gina Prince-Bythewood to, once again, prove her worth as a capable action filmmaker, but it also introduces The Woman King’s central all-female army, sets up the film’s core conflict, and introduces nearly every important character that you’ll need to know for the two hours that follow it. The fact that The Woman King does all of this within the span of a few short minutes just makes its opening sequence all the more impressive.

The level of impressive craftsmanship in The Woman King’s memorably violent prologue is present throughout the entirety of its 135-minute runtime. For that reason, the film often feels like a throwback to an era that seems to reside farther in the past than it actually does, one when it was common for all the major Hollywood studios to regularly put out historical epics that were, if nothing else, reliably well-made and dramatically engaging.

Read more
Barbarian review: the less you know, the better
Georgina Campbell holds up her phone in a dark tunnel in "Barbarian."

Barbarian is a true swing for the fences. The film, which marks writer-director Zach Cregger’s solo directorial debut, is a horror mash-up that seems in certain moments like a modern riff on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and at other times like a loving homage to the kind of campy horror comedies that Sam Raimi has perfected. When it’s at its best is when Barbarian feels like it is combining those influences to become a horror ride that is simultaneously absurd and terrifying.

More than anything else, Barbarian is unlike anything else you’ll see in a movie theater this year. That kind of remark doesn’t always equal praise. Uniqueness alone is, after all, not enough to save a movie that is otherwise coming apart at the seams. In the case of Barbarian, though, the film's commitment to delivering a genuinely unpredictable and tonally-challenging experience is what makes it so memorable. To watch it is to get swept up not only in the dramatic stakes of the film’s story but also in the audacious, go-for-broke creative spirit at the center of it.

Read more