Bill Skarsgård is unlucky enough to be mute but lucky enough to have H. Jon Benjamin provide his voice in "Boy Kills World."

It’s not often that a fictional character sums up the premise of his movie better than I could, but that’s what happens in Boy Kills World. I’ll let our hero’s voiceover narrator (H. Jon Benjamin) take it: “That’s me, facing televised execution by breakfast cereal mascots. Not my happiest day, but let me take you back to an even worse one: the day the van der Koys killed my family and left me deaf and mute … the mission is simple: Make the van der Koys pay.” Sadly, that line is confined to the movie’s trailer and is not in the finished film, but it does give you an idea of this stylized revenge thriller’s madcap spirit.

Our nameless hero (Bill Skarsgård) lives in a future capitalist dystopia ruled by the evil van der Koy family. He fails in his initial attempt to assassinate matriarch Hilda van der Koy (Famke Janssen), so he’s taken to a TV studio where soldiers dressed as a pirate, an octopus, and a pineapple all try to kill him with swords and guns in front of a cheering live audience. Ya know, the Hunger Games movies and indeed the books could have used this sort of inspired madness.

German director Moritz Mohr adapts this from his own proof-of-concept teaser trailer, and he cuts the insane violence with cartoon humor — our man meets a resistance member (Isaiah Mustafa) whose thick beard defeats his lip-reading ability, so he imagines the man’s grave speech: “Snickle pickle suitcase. Dodo bun’s a bad word.” The hero is haunted by the ghost of his murdered sister (Quinn Copeland), who shows up in a ninja outfit with butterfly wings and distracts him at key points rather than helping him. One of the van der Koys promises to turn against the family and help our protagonists, so they promptly kill him by accident. Brett Gelman gets into the swing of things as a van der Koy sibling who admits that he’s tired of torturing political enemies and just wants to write stage plays. It’s all set off by Benjamin’s ultra-macho narration — he’s the voice of Archer on Archer and Bob on Bob’s Burgers — which lets us know that this isn’t to be taken seriously.


So why do the filmmakers try to make us take this seriously? The movie noticeably loses some punch in its second half as the comedy goes away and the story tries to tug at our heartstrings. The big plot revelation about our hero’s relationship to the van der Koys doesn’t land like it should, and while Jessica Rothe (who’s usually cast to be funny) gives everything to the role of a van der Koy henchwoman who’s not all she seems, you miss the wisecracking and the slapstick.

Those action scenes, though. Mohr films it all with a crazed fluidity, and Polish fight choreographer Dawid Szatarsky flashes all manner of creativity. (He also portrays a bespectacled, asthmatic foot soldier named Dave who keeps trying to kill the hero after losing an arm and a leg and having a pipe wrench shoved in his mouth. The hero’s sidekick says, “He’s got issues,” which doesn’t really explain things.) Undercover as a chef, our main character cluelessly strolls through the halls of the van der Koy mansion while grating cheese all over the carpets, but his box grater comes in handy when he has to take down a bunch of bodyguards. Szatarsky clearly takes his inspiration from Indonesian action films, and not for nothing does Yayan Ruhian show up as the hero’s mentor who personally fights the last of the van der Koys. As long as Boy Kills World sticks to entertaining us with distinctive, candy-colored fight sequences, it’s on solid footing.

Boy Kills World
Starring Bill Skarsgård and Jessica Rothe. Directed by Moritz Mohr. Written by Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers, based on Mohr and Remmers’ short film. Rated R.