TIFF 2023: Boy Kills World Review

Moritz Mohr's latest delivers two hours of enthralling sensory overload.

Imagine a filmmaker went on a meth-fuelled bender and shot a film that mixes Kill Bill, The Hunger Games, and Street Fighter II. You would have something as insane and stylish, but probably more coherent, than Boy Kills World. This film is as brutal and twisted as any genre flick you’ll likely see this year. It’s a movie where a man slaughters a roomful of armed goons with a cheese grater. What else do you really need to know? 

The film begins with an animated introduction showing how the world has devolved into a post-apocalyptic hellscape. A fascist regime led by psychotic dictator Hilda Van Der Koy (Famke Janssen) treats its citizens like they’re in a prison colony. They’ve turned population cullings into staged television spectacles.

Years ago, the Van Der Koy’s murdered Boy’s family leaving him orphaned and traumatized. A mysterious Shaman (Yayan Ruhian) emerges from the jungle, saving the now mute and deaf orphan. A skilled martial arts master, he takes Boy under his wing, transforming him into an unstoppable killing machine. Jump ahead a decade and Boy (Bill Skarsgård), jacked up and pissed off at his oppressors, sets out on his revenge tour. Along the way, he befriends resistance fighters Basho (a wild-eyed Andrew Koji) and Benny (a mumble-mouthed Isaiah Mustafa). The trio join forces and launch a suicide mission to destroy the tyrannical Van Der Koy family. 

Boy Kills World is totally unhinged. From the opening frame, Moritz Mohr’s film hurtles towards the finish line like a coked-up bat out of hell. The film makes about as much sense as a fever dream, but you don’t have to remain lucid to get what it’s going for. It’s a stylish revenge movie inspired by old westerns, kung fu flicks, and 16-bit video games. It’s more sizzle than steak, yet I was often mystified by its violent intensity and anarchic spirit. The film is jam-packed with vivid imagery, stylish costumes and wild locations.


The story takes place in a dystopian city, littered with foggy alleys and neon-drenched shopfronts. It’s a broken down $#ithole that makes Gotham City look like the French Riviera. This setting is moody, atmospheric, and sets a beautiful stage for the blood-soaked parade of violence that passes for the plot. 

The entire cast must have received the same note: go BIG or go home. Spoiler alert: nobody went home. Michelle Dockery, Brett Gelman, Andrew Koji, and Sharlto Copley chew the hell out of the scenery, and every line reading deserves a chef’s kiss. They’re ridiculous and they know it, but they’re acting insane in a way that’s inviting people to raise Boy Kills World up as a meme machine and cult classic. 

Even if you have a low tolerance for obnoxious characters and hammy dialogue, Boy Kills World’s sweet, sweet action sequences are undeniable. The film delivers some of the most visceral, gut-wrenching violence I’ve seen in a minute. Part of that is in the excellent sound design. You hear every knuckle crack and crunched femur with pristine clarity. The sound of bone-crushing will rattle the teeth in your head, while gun blasts rock through the theatre like volcanic eruptions. 

People fight dirty, too, so prepare for all kinds of gnarly tactics. Combatants bite, gouge, and tear at any piece of exposed flesh. Prepare for several “I can’t believe I just saw that,” moments. The thrilling fight choreography itself is fast-paced and expertly choreographed. While the camera is often as frantic as the action, it never obscures the excellent stunt work. I thought I’d seen everything, but there were several moments when I slapped my forehead and thought, “Did I really just see that?” The final Boss Fight alone is worth the price of admission. 


Boy Kills World delivers two hours of sensory overload. It’s full of over-the-top characters, bloody action sequences, and stylish visuals. I’m still deciding whether Boy Kills World is one hell of a movie or a movie from hell, but I’m open to both arguments. One thing’s for sure: it’s the stuff B-movie dreams are made of.    

Boy Kills World screened as part of TIFF 2023, which runs from September 7 to 17. 

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