Directed by:
Written by: , ,
Starring: , , ,

RUNNING TIME: 109 mins

I’ve been seeing and reviewing a lot of old martial arts movies of late, usually Blu-Rays that I’ve either obtained from 88 Films or have received screeners of from Eureka Entertainment, and which were always Asian until the other day, when I viewed and wrote up two American genre efforts. Now, following on from the double bill of China O’ Brien 1 and 2 we have this modern offering, a joint American, German and South African production, though one which feels more South African than anything else. It comes not long after the release of Monkey Man from director and star Dev Patel, a film which has distinct similarities with Boy Kills World [a poor title to be sure, and not just because it reminds one of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World], aside from both snagging Sharlto Copley. Patel’s roaring rampage of revenge I didn’t have time to review though did intend to do so; it’s not always easy spending so much time watching and reviewing movies and also having a good social life. But that’s no big regret. I felt that the more serious Monkey Man faltered considerably when it tried to bring in some depth to the proceedings, or should I say pretended to bring in some depth to the proceedings, as ghere wasn’t really anything deep in it at all. Boy Kills World never attempts anything of the sort, and is all the better for it, even if it largely lacks the visual pleasures of Monkey Man. While it does admirably contain some plot twists, how much one enjoys Boy Kills World mostly depends on how much one enjoys highly kinetic fight sequences, with the camera dizzyingly going all over the place, filled with gory violence, but the kind of gory violence that you laugh at more than anything else. I love me my martial arts, but I prefer to be able to see action properly and am really tiring of blood and guts played for laughs; it’s  become so lazy, though I guess it’s harder to present such stuff straight these days when people have become so jaded.

We’re not told at all where this city which is now under totalitarianist rule is; whatever it is, it’s a dump from what we can see, the low budget obviously limiting what we can view. The short clips which begin the film, alternating glimpses of a shooting with a boy being trained in the forest, may not have worked as well together without the voiceover that we hear over it, but you may become sick of it very soon. The idea is that Boy, who hasn’t been able to speak or hear for a considerable amount of time, has forgotten how his voice used to sound, so he imagines his inner monologue a a computer game he used to play with his sister Mina. This often takes the form of Boy telling us something like “I’m a death machine” while something happen onscreen to contradict that, which is just very mildly amusing at best. Fortunately it does disappear after a while, but not early enough. Anyway, the training of Boy by the Shaman, preparing him to take revenge against the Van Der Koys, continues, and, while we don’t see anything amazing, if you’re like me and look forward to such sequences whenever you watch an oldie from Shaw Brothers or Golden Harvest, and sometimes even find them to be the highlight of the movie, than you’ll enjoy this, despite the rapid cutting from one bit to another, not letting us dwell on anything for more than a few seconds. The adult Boy, sometimes accompanied in his mind by Mina, wonders into the city to sell flowers and is shocked when a woman speaks of her excitement for this year’s Culling. The fact that the “common” people have been brainwashed into loving seeing some of their own being shot shows us how bad things have got in this future, but then it’s also very plausible considering the way the world is at. Slippery slope and all that.

The crowd gathers round as Gideon does his speech, but he has trouble with it because  it’s been poorly written by Glen, who included two words which meant the same one after the other and wrote a whole paragraph about things nobody in the crowd will have ever seen called – owls. He whinges at Glen about this, then a heckler shouts at him and an irritated Glen accidentally shoots a random civilian, leading to unrest between spectators and police, then a massacre by the Van Der Koy’s enforcer, June 27, which leaves only six alive who are captured by Gideon. Deciding to follow them, Boy hides in the trunk of Gideon’s car. Ending up at a warehouse, Boy is attacked by Glen and several of his men as Gideon leaves with Melanie; Boy brutally kills the men in the first of the film’s fight scenes, though you may more remember a bit where, after meeting a captive named Basho, the two interrogate someone and Basho accidentally drops a bench press on his head, squishing it like a tomato. Well, we laughed when Vincent Vega mistakenly shot Marvin in the car in Pulp Fiction, didn’t we? So we laugh here, even though there’s not any great dialogue to accompany the deed. Boy and Basho find out that Hilda hosts a party just before The Culling every year, then go to meet the Resistance but discovers that everybody has been killed by the Van Der Koys except one member named Benny, whose lips Boy cannot read due to his beard in maybe the fim’s most amusing conceit. The three sneak back into the manor, but a surprise is waiting for them. The action is ramped up, but so are the reveals in what ends up being not a bad script by Tyler Burton Smith, Arend Remmers and director Moritz Mohr, while of course we sometimes wonder the validity of what we’re seeing. After all, Boy sees teeth falling out of a mouth and walking around on a table, and also sees his sister dressed as a Ninja with fairy wings after saying that he wanted it – though why didn’t we have a big action scene involving the latter!

But of course we do get several other sequences where our hero, sometimes helped by others but quite often not, not just punches, kicks and throws but pierces, rips and smashes in a way that would make even Sonny China jealous. My favourite was the use of a cheese grater. The use of CG blood, which rarely looks much good, along with CG enhancements makes much of the action resemble a video game which will no doubt please many, though not being a gamer I wasn’t always that enthralled by the similarities, it just seeming a bit fake. The camera wobbles and ducks and dives in a way that almost causes one to feel sick and weakens clarity in terms of what we’re trying to see; the need to “ramp up” the action this way makes no sense when it hampers enjoyment of it and our ability to actually able to see what we’re supposed to see, though at least there aren’t any flash cuts and some takes are quite long, making it clear that a decent amount of martial arts expertise is on display – which makes the filming style even more pointless. Nonetheless the final showdown, which has two good people take on one bad guy – something that viewers not experienced with Hong Kong cinema may find to be surprising – still manages to be pretty impressive. A commendable contrast to the “awesome, an arm’s been torn off” nature of the brutality are flashbacks showing both the psychological and physical abuse of the young Boy, which are quite nasty even though nothing is actually dwelt upon. Yet, even though we truly hate the main villain for doing all this to a child, we find out that he had his reason for doing so.

Indeed we seem to be in the middle of a twisted cycle of killing and revenge that began many decades before and which will no doubt continue for many decades later. This is something that any follow-up would do well by exploring, rather than more adventures involving some of the same characters. The often black humour, which perhaps reaches a high point [or would that be a low point] when a massacre is carried out on a children’s TV programme, lessens as things progress and surprises are in store – well, they were surprises to me.  Sadly the emotional effect that should be felt at times is significantly muted, no matter how many times Mohr flashes back to Boy’s childhood. On the other hand, this film will no doubt hype some viewers up for this title role as The Crow. I remain annoyed immensely by yet another remake of a movie I love and which stands little chance of being surpassed, but I’m now more positive about Bill Skarsgard taking over the role made iconic by Brandon Lee, something that I can’t believe that I’m saying. I’m not convinced that Skarsgard has learned that much martial arts, but he’s certainly been trained in enough to get him by, and – perhaps just as importantly – he’s able to project the idea that his character is an incredible fighter. His physical presence is strong and his acting good enough for us to care about Boy even when he seem impervious to pain and injury. Yayan Ruhian is perfectly cast as the Shaman who trains Boy to be the ruthless killer he becomes, even though he only gets one fight scene; however it’s a good one and does approach the intensity of of his final fight in The Raid. Copley and Framke Janssen appear in little more than extended cameos but they make the most of their parts anyway. Does Copley know the meaning of words like “subtle” and “restrained”?

Boy Meets World doesn’t have anything more important to say than to watch out for fascism and, more positivity, the division within evil. It exists primarily to get people “ooo-ing” and “argh-ing” at the mayhem it bombards the viewer with. A stronger emotional element – it’s there but somehow doesn’t come off the screen anywhere near as powerfully as it should – and this could have been some kind of ultra-violent classic. In any case, the martial arts movie is still alive – if not quite in the form us oldies are familiar with.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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About Dr Lenera 1980 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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