The Big Picture
- Boy Kills World delivers on its promise of violent and stylish action, with slow-motion shots and satisfying blood splatters that make the action scenes intriguing.
- Action director Dawid Szatarski was given free rein over the project, allowing him to unleash his creativity and contribute to the film’s stunts and effects.
- The film’s challenge lies in balancing the action with the drama and comedy, as well as working with a lead actor, Bill Skarsgård, who has no dialogue but still manages to convey emotion effectively.
The original trailer concept for Moritz Mohr and Arend Remmers‘s Boy Kills World didn’t skimp on the violence and stylish action as the deaf-mute Boy tore through a group of thugs. With slow-motion shots, satisfying blood splatters, choreography that emphasized the damage the unlikely action hero inflicted, and a dash of humor from the narration, it sparked intrigue for what could be done with a feature-length production. Now that Mohr and his team have had the opportunity to deliver that film and premiere it at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness, they can attest to taking a similar all-in approach to gore, action, and special effects on the full project.
Speaking to Collider’s Perri Nemiroff at our TIFF media studio at the Cinema Center at MARBL, Mohr and producer Simon Swart detailed their approach to effects and action in Boy Kills World and how they ran wild with both when given the chance. Key to that strategy was action director Dawid Szatarski who was essentially given free rein over the project. Szatarski has done plenty of high-profile stunt work in the past, contributing to the Kingsman franchise, Black Widow, and a previous buzzy action film to make a TIFF premiere, Guns Akimbo. Mohr emphasized how integral he was to laying out the plan for stunts and effects, but admits changes were made frequently as everyone kept suggesting ways to add to the action:
“Well, what we had to do to even get a basic picture of how the action should look was doing all these pre-vis things where Dawid Szatarski, the action director, worked out the general gist of the scene. Then we talked about it, then we made the changes according to the script, and then he shot the first draft of it in a warehouse, in the stunt facilities, basically, then re-did it on set on the day. Obviously, even then there were changes, but that was sort of one big thing so we could really anticipate how much time it was gonna take us because it’s just so much action. We went in and really tried to have a plan way before that, and that affected the visual effects. Every time somebody goes in, like, ‘Yeah, he could shoot him in the head right now.’ It’s like, ‘Oh, yeah. That’s another bullet impact, blood spatter, another muzzle flash. Oh yeah, that’s another $1500 or something.’ [Laughs] So every time somebody had a small idea, it literally affected the budget, but we did it.”
‘Boy Kills World’ Molded the Action Into the Drama
Boy Kills World faced a significant challenge when it came to mixing the action with the drama and comedy that come with its story, however. The film follows the deaf-mute Boy on a wild revenge quest against the matriarch of a brutal, corrupt dynasty that killed his family and ruined his life all while he’s haunted by the ghost of his dead sister. Weaving the fever dream together with the action meant Mohr and Szatarski spent a lot of time together making everything mesh while keeping the action on point. According to Swart, it was a special opportunity for Szatarski to work on the project as he finally got to experiment with ideas for action scenes he’s longed to test out:
“The crazy challenge you have, like Mortiz covered, is you’ve got the action sequences, the drama sequences, the humor beats, and they’re all having to work together. Dawid and Moritz created these crazy action sequences where Dawid wanted to create fight sequences that included things that he’s always wanted to do as a stunt designer and coordinator and never been allowed to do, and we sort of turned him loose and said, ‘You go ahead, Dave. Let’s go crazy, let’s do this,’ and then integrating them into the drama and the moments.
Of course, the other, arguably greater dilemma is what to do with Bill Skarsgård. The John Wick Chapter 4 star plays Boy and thus has no dialogue on-screen, leaving him limited to whatever expressions he can make. Swart admitted it was difficult to navigate, but he praised Mohr for finding ways to make it work in both action sequences and dramatic moments. “One of the biggest challenges is you’ve got a lead actor who has no dialogue,” he told Nemiroff. “He’s deaf and mute. That leads to a very different challenge in shooting the movie that Moritz really did an amazing job with to capture the emotion and the heart with a lead with no lines.”
Boy Kills World is produced by Sam Raimi and penned by Remmers and Tyler Burton Smith with Skarsgård joined in the cast by Jessica Rothe, Yayan Ruhian, Andrew Koji, Isaiah Mustafa, Famke Janssen, Brett Gelman, and Sharlto Copley. The film currently has no theatrical release date. Stay tuned here at Collider for more of our coverage from TIFF 2023.