Review: ‘Boy Kills World,’ starring Bill Skarsgård

April 21, 2024

by Carla Hay

Bill Skarsgård in “Boy Kills World” (Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions)

“Boy Kills World”

Directed by Moritz Mohr

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed dystopian society, the action film “Boy Kills World” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people and Asian) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A deaf and mute man, who was raised as an orphan and trained to be a warrior by a shaman, goes on a revenge mission against the tyrannical dictator whom he blames for killing his family. 

Culture Audience: “Boy Kills World” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of videogame-styled action movies that have some offbeat comedy and don’t take themselves too seriously.

Famke Janssen in “Boy Kills World” (Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions)

“Boy Kills World” is a cartoonishly violent revenge flick with touches of psychedelia and self-deprecating comedy in a dystopian society. The story drags with repetition in the middle of the movie, but a plot twist makes up for this occasional banality. This plot twist is not as predictable as another plot twist that happens around the same time.

Directed by Moritz Mohr, “Boy Kills World” was written by Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers. “Boy Kills World” had its world premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. The movie is based on director Mohr’s unreleased short film “Boy Kills World,” which has a similar concept.

In the feature-length “Boy Kills World,” which takes place in an unnamed dystopian society, a young man whose name is listed in the credits Boy (played by Bill Skarsgård) goes on a revenge mission against a tyrannical dictator named Beatrice Van Der Koy (played by Famke Janssen), whom he blames for murdering his mother (played by Rolanda Marais), his father (played by Ashley Dowds) and Boy’s younger sister Mina (played by Quinn Copeland) when Boy was about 13 or 14 years old and when Mina was about 9 or 10 years old. The teenage Boy is played by twins Cameron Crovetti and Nicholas Crovetti. Beatrice is the leader of the Van Der Koy family, who have several members who also abuse their positions of power to intimidate and kill people.

Every year, this bleak society has a mass murder event called the Culling, where Beatrice orders the military to go after enemies and kill innocent people on live TV. Boy’s family got caught in the Culling crossfire. Flashbacks show that he witnessed his mother’s murder. Boy was able to escape but became deaf and mute from the attack. He was rescued and taken to a remote wooded area by a mystic whose name is listed in the credits as Shaman (played by Yayan Ruhian), who raised him in isolation and trained Boy to become a warrior skilled in martial arts.

Boy does not talk out loud in the movie, so his inner thoughts are heard with the voice that he says was the voice of his favorite video game character. (H. Jon Benjamin does Boy’s voice in the movie.) Talent Digital Art has a free-to-play 2.5D fighting video game titled “Super Dragon Punch Force 3,” which is described in a press release as a “real world sequel inspired by the fictitious 2D fighting game franchise” depicted in “Boy Kills World.”) Even in the flashback scenes where Boy is literally a boy, his voiceover is that of an adult man.

Boy’s inner thoughts show that he can be self-deprecating and frequently sarcastic. Boy says of the city that he left behind when he was rescued by Shaman: “This was never a great city. Hilda Vander Koy took it from us. She has a list of all of her enemies. If you’re on it, she’ll find you.” Boy adds, “Hilda took everything from me. And when I become the ultimate warrior, I’ll return the favor.”

Several scenes in “Boy Kills World” show that part of Shaman’s training includes blowing smoke from a hallucinogenic substance into Boy’s face. As a result, Boy often has psychedelic hallucinations. Boy says early on in the movie that there’s a state of being between reality and dreams. The visual effects for the psychedelia are among the more memorable aspects about this sensory overload film.

Boy frequently has visions of Mina appearing to him and talking to him and looking the same way since the last time he saw her. Boy and Mina had a very close and fun-loving relationship before their lives were torn apart. Even in his life as a vengeful warrior, Boy still gets teased and playful scolding from Mina, whom he sees as the only person in his life who truly made him happy.

During his vendetta quest, Boy encounters other members of the Van Der Koy family, including Hilda’s ruthless sister Melanie Van Der Koy (played by Michelle Dockery); Hilda’s arrogant brother Gideon Van Der Koy (played by Brett Gelman); and Melanie’s buffoonish husband Glen Van Der Koy (played Sharlto Copley), who is dominated by Melanie. (It says a lot that Glen took the Van Der Koy surname.)

The Van Der Koy family has a security chief named June27 (played by Jessica Rothe), and programmed assassin who wears a helmet and who might or might not be human. She has almost superhuman-like strength and becomes a formidable and elusive opponent to Boy. Meanwhile, Boy forms an alliance with two rebels: wisecracking Basho (played by Andrew Koji) and resourceful Bennie (played by Isaiah Mustafa), who both join in on the mayhem. Boy encounters many dangerous foes, leading to several brutal and bloody battles.

Skarsgård is quite skillful in combining the action and facial expressions required for this character who is supposed to be deaf and mute. Melanie the villain who is the most fun to watch in the movie, thanks to Dockery’s prickly performance. Janssen’s Hilda is a fairly generic and predictable villain, while Gideon and his bad jokes quickly become annoying.

“Boy Kills World” is by no means an intellectual movie, but some of the quips are amusing enough to keep most viewers entertained. One of the movie’s plot twists is very predictable, while other plot twists are not as easy to predict. The movie’s most surprising “reveal” has some imagination, which saves “Boy Kills World” from being just another violent action flick that’s a checklist of death and destruction.

Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate will release “Boy Kills World” in U.S. cinemas on April 26, 2024. The movie will be released on digital and VOD on May 28, 2024.

Review: ‘Monkey Man’ (2024), starring Dev Patel

April 5, 2024

by Carla Hay

Dev Patel in “Monkey Man” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

“Monkey Man” (2024)

Directed by Dev Patel

Some language in Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India, the action film “Monkey Man” (inspired by the legend of monkey deity Hanuman) features a predominantly Asian cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: An anonymous man goes undercover at a social club catering to corrupt leaders, in order to get revenge on the people responsible for massacring his village (including his mother) when he was a child. 

Culture Audience: “Monkey Man” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of filmmaker/star Dev Patel and high-octane, stylish action movies with good acting.

Dev Patel in “Monkey Man” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

“Monkey Man” proudly shows influences from the “John Wick” movie series and classic Asian action flicks. As a star and filmmaker, Dev Patel gives the stylish “Monkey Man” the type of soul that sets it apart from most other violent revenge movies. “Monkey Man” doesn’t do anything particularly groundbreaking with its story, but the movie has a passion and a socioeconomic consciousness that make it a film that has a lot to say about vigilante justice.

Patel (who is best known as an actor) wrote and directed “Monkey Man,” which is his feature-film directorial debut. He is also one of the producers “Monkey Man,” which takes place primarily in the fictional city of Yatana, India. (“Monkey Man” was filmed mostly in Batam, Indonesia.) The movie takes a bleak view of society as a dangerous place where police and other law enforcement can’t be trusted to give justice because too many of them are corrupt.

“Monkey Man” is a simple story of an unnamed man (played by Patel), listed as Kid in the film’s end credits, who is out to get revenge on the people responsible for the massacre of his village when Kid was about 8 or 9 years old. (Jatin Malik has the role of Kid as a child.) Kid’s compassionate single mother Neela (played by Adithi Kalkunte) was one of the people murdered. As shown in flashback, Neela was raped and killed by a ruthless police chief named Rana Singh (played by Sikandar Kher) while Kid was hiding in their home and witnessed this brutal murder.

Throughout “Monkey Man,” there are flashbacks to the anonymous vigilante’s past that show snippets of information until this full picture emerges. One of his treasured childhood memories is his mother telling him the story of Hanuman, a heroic and powerful monkey deity. Viewers find out that he has the alias Bobby when he goes undercover as adult, because he uses a product called Bobby’s Powdered Bleach as a way to get revenge in a particular scene in the movie.

Kid makes money as an underpaid underground mixed-martial arts fighter who wears a monkey mask. However, he also gets a job as a dishwasher and then as a waiter at a secretive and elite social club called Kings Club, where powerful and corrupt leaders gather to indulge in a lot of decadence involving sex and drugs. Kings Club is essentially a brothel, where many of the sex workers are models or former beauty contestants.

Kid knows Rana is a regular customer at Kings Club, because of a Kings Club matchbook that Kid saw in Rana possession when Rana murdered his mother. Kid cons his way into getting a job at Kings Club by arranging for a pickpocket to steal the purse of Kings Club manager Queenie Kapoor (played by Ashwini Kalsekar), so that Kid can pretend to be do-gooder returning the purse to her. Instead of accepting Queenie’s gift of a cash reward, Kid tells her that he wants a “job that no one wants to do” at the club instead.

Queenie is a foul-mouthed, nasty-tempered boss who verbally abuses people, including her lackey gofer Alphonso (played by Pitobash), who is weasely, talkative and most of the movie’s comic relief. Alphonso has a black auto rickshaw (also known as a tuk-tuk) that he has nicknamed Nicki (after hop-hop star Nicki Minaj), because, as Alphonso describes the tuk-tuk: “Big bumper. Nice headlights.” Alphonso ends up being the closest person to get Kid’s trust at Kings Club.

Kid and a Kings Club sex worker named Sita (played by Sobhita Dhulipala) have a mutual attraction to each other, but Kid is too consumed by his vendetta to have time for any romance. Still, Kid and Sita exchange “what if” glances at each other to indicate that they are both thinking what would happen if they had met under different circumstances. Sita’s background information remains a mystery in the movie.

Other characters who are prominently featured in “Monkey Man” represent different aspects of the socioeconomic and class systems and how they are exploited to gain power. Baba Shakti (played Makarand Deshpande) is a world-famous spiritual guru who grew up in poverty but whose close association with many wealthy and powerful celebrities have made him wealthy and powerful too. Although he pretends to be about enlightenment and tolerance, Baba Shakti has endorsed the fictional Sovereign Party, which supports discrimination and persecution of minorities such as transgender people.

Someone who is a close ally of Baba Shakti is a Sovereign Party politician named Adesh Joshi (played by Vijay Kumar), who is currently running for an election. On a lesser level, Kid has conflicts with a sleazebag named Tiger (played by Sharlto Copley), the emcee at the underground fight club where Kid often takes a beating. Tiger takes pleasure in seeing Kid lose matches. Tiger also doesn’t pay Kid enough money if Tiger thinks Kid didn’t bleed enough in a match.

During the course of the story, Kid encounters a mystical guru named Alpha (played by Vipin Sharma), the leader of an androgynous “third-gender” tribe knows as the hijra. (A few of the scenes in “Monkey Man” are quite psychedelic.) The hijra people live in a cave, with the implication being that they feel safer in a cave than they do living amongst regular society because of the persecution they would experience as transgender or gender-fluid people.

“Monkey Man” fully acknowledges how much it’s inspired by the “John Wick” movies in a scene where Kid goes to an illegal gun dealer to buy a gun. The gun dealer offers to sell a TTI gun “just like in the first ‘John Wick’ movie,” he tells Kid. Kid declines this offer and says he wants a gun that is “small but effective,” so he ends up buying a small pistol. There’s also a cute dog that the hero takes care of briefly, just like there’s a cute dog briefly taken care of by the hero in the first “John Wick” movie. (The dog in “Monkey Man” is a stray and fortunately is not killed in the movie.)

The cinematography in “Monkey Man” is often frenetic and lit in various shades of neon. The movie also has montages that are edited almost like music videos. This style will be enjoyed by most viewers but disliked by others. “Monkey Man” has a lot of high-octane action and well-choreographed fight scenes that get very bloody and often require suspension of disbelief. But it’s in the hero’s quieter moments that viewers get more authenticity and a deeper understanding of him that will linger with viewers after the movie ends.

Universal Pictures released “Monkey Man” in U.S. cinemas on April 5, 2024. The movie will be released on VOD on April 23, 2024; on digital on June 11, 2024; and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD on June 25, 2024.

Review: ‘Beast’ (2022), starring Idris Elba

August 18, 2022

by Carla Hay

Idris Elba in “Beast” (Photo by Lauren Mulligan/Universal Pictures)

“Beast” (2022)

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur

Some language in Tshivenda with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in South Africa, the horror movie “Beast” features a predominantly black cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A British single father, who’s a medical doctor, goes on a safari in South Africa to reconnect with his two estranged, underage American daughters, and they encounter a lion on a rampage.

Culture Audience: “Beast” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Idris Elba and formulaic horror movies about murderous animals on the loose.

Sharlto Copley, Iyana Halley, Idris Elba and Leah Jeffries in “Beast” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

As a horror story about a killer lion on the loose, “Beast” is tame, predictable and often ridiculous. Disney’s 1994 animated film “The Lion King” has more suspense than the formulaic junk of “Beast.” Viewers who want to watch a movie with no imagination, terribly staged action scenes and some laughably bad dialogue will probably enjoy “Beast” a lot more than people who are looking for better-quality entertainment, considering the talented cast members who star in this movie.

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur and written by Ryan Engle, “Beast” used computer-generated imagery (CGI) visual effects for the rampaging lion that causes terror in the story. And these visual effects are obvious, because the lion looks very fake. The movie has multiple action sequences where a human kicks the lion, and the lion unrealistically backs off instead of mauling the person to death, which is what would happen in real life.

In another part of the “Beast,” a severely injured person who would be unconscious from medical shock and extreme loss of blood is able to sit up and talk like a normal, healthy human being. The movie is just scene after sloppily edited scene of hard-to-believe nonsense. And to top it all off, viewers are supposed to believe that this rampaging lion does things that are against a lion’s nature because the lion has a human-like revenge plan.

“Beast” also has an over-used formula that’s often in derivative movies about families who experience terror on an adventure trip: tension-filled parent-child relationships. In “Beast,” Dr. Nate Samuels (played by Idris Elba) is a medical doctor and a British immigrant who has been living in the United States for an untold number of years. Nate was separated from his wife Amahle (played by Naledi Mogadime), a South African native, when she died of cancer. The movie never says how long Amahle (who’s briefly seen in Nate’s dream sequences) has been deceased, but conversations indicate that she died less than a year before the story takes place.

Nate and Amahle (who was a photographer) met in South Africa. At some point in their relationship, they moved to the United States, where their two daughters were born and raised. The two daughters have opposite personalities. Meredith “Mare” Samuels (played by Iyana Halley) is 18 years old, moody and withdrawn. Norah Samuels (played by Leah Jeffries) is 13 years old, bubbly and talkative. Mare wants to be a photographer, just like her mother was. Norah hasn’t decided what she wants to do with her life when she’s adult, but she mentions at one point, when she’s asked, that she’s thinking about going into psychology to become a family therapist.

It might be Norah’s subconscious way of saying that her own family needs therapy. In a few guilt-ridden monologues in the movie, Nate reveals that his workaholic ways made him a mostly inattentive father before Amahle died. He also blames himself for not seeing the early signs that she had cancer.

Mare (who doesn’t want to be called Meredith) has more bitter feelings toward Nate than Norah does. Mare is especially angry that Nate had downplayed Amahle’s cancer. It’s mentioned that Nate even went as far as promising his daughters that Amahle would be okay and would recover. And that was a promise he couldn’t keep.

As a way to reconnect with his daughters, Nate has taken Mare and Norah a trip to South Africa, to go to the places where Amahle loved. It’s a trip that he promised to Mare and Norah long ago, but he feels that the trip is more urgent now that Amahle has passed away. One of the places where Nate wants to take Mare and Norah is the wildlife preserve where he and Amahle had some fond memories.

The preserve is the home and workplace of wildlife biologist Martin Battles (played by Sharlto Copley), a longtime friend of Nate’s. Martin (who is a never-married bachelor) was the one who introduced Nate to Amahle. Martin, who is also a passionate anti-poacher, is disturbed that poachers have been killing animals on the preserve and have recently been going after lions. (“Beast” was filmed on location in South Africa—specifically in Limpopo province, Northern Cape province and Cape Town.)

The opening scene of “Beast” shows one of these poacher hunts on the preserve at night. Viewers later find out that the poacher’s leader is a generic villain named Kees (played by Martin Munro), who goes with a group of native South Africans for these illegal hunting activities. In this opening scene, the killer lion goes on the attack. Later, it’s shown that the lion has gone on a rampage and killed several local villagers who have nothing do to with the poachers.

Why is this lion attacking every human in sight? It’s against a lion’s nature to attack, unless it’s to eat or in self-defense from being provoked. The lion is killing people but not eating them. Martin, who is the safari guide for the Samuels family, suddenly acts like a lion psychologist, and announces that the lion must be out for revenge because the poachers killed members of the lion’s pride.

You can easily guess the rest of what happens in this movie. And sure enough: Nate, Mare, and Norah find themselves trapped in a Jeep after the lion suddenly attacks them in the vehicle. Mare takes the wheel of the car, crashes it in a state of panic, and the vehicle is then unable to start. Meanwhile, Martin, who has been communicating with them by walkie talkie, tells the family that he’s been attacked by the lion. The attack has resulted in Martin’s right leg being severely injured, and he’s losing a critical amount of blood that could soon lead to his death if he doesn’t get medical help.

The rest of “Beast” is an unsurprising back-and-forth battle between the lion and the humans. The people who die and survive are exactly whom you think will die and survive. Although “Beast” has some stunning landscape cinematography, and the cast members give adequate performances, all of it is not enough to overcome the idiotic things that happen in this substandard movie.

In the production notes for “Beast,” producer Will Packer said he wanted to make “Beast” like “‘Cujo’ with a lion.” The 1983 horror film “Cujo,” which is based on Stephen King’s 1981 novel of the same name, is about a woman trapped in a car with her son while a rabid St. Bernard named Cujo is nearby. Considering that the “Cujo” movie failed to impress enough movie audiences and critics to be a major hit, that’s all you need to know about how low the standards are for “Beast.”

Universal Pictures will release “Beast” in U.S. cinemas on August 19, 2022.

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