Producers:  Sam Raimi, Zainab Azizi, Roy Lee, Wayne Fitzjohn, Simon Swar, Stuart Manashil, Dan Kagan and Alex Lebovici   Director: Moritz Mohr   Screenplay:  Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers   Cast:  Bill Skarsgård, Jessica Rothe, Michelle Dockery, Famke Janssen, Sharlto Copley, Brett Gelman, Isaiah Mustafa, Andrew Koji, Yayan Ruhian, Quinn Copeland, Nicholas Crovetti, Cameron Crovetti, Rolanda Marais and H. Jon Benjamin   Distributor: Lionsgate

Grade: C-

If your idea of a good time is peering over someone’s shoulder while they play a gruesomely violent video game, Moritz Mohr’s debut feature will be your cup of sour tea.  If not, you might find that “Boy Kills World” will turn your stomach as it goes to extremes trying to provide a constant adrenaline rush while serving up a slew of snarky jokes and gross-out visual gags.

The script by Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers (from a story idea by Remmers and Mohr) is technically original, in the sense of not being based directly on an existing property, but it’s highly derivative of scores of graphic novels, video games and other action movies.  The plot, an extremely thin one, is set, of course, in some dystopian realm ruled by the Van der Koy family headed by despot Hilda (Famke Janssen).

The family conducts an annual Culling, in which enemies are rounded up and disposed of viciously and very publicly as a form of both deterrence and entertainment.  Among the victims, we’re shown, are the mother (Rolanda Marais) and beloved sister Mina (Quinn Copeland) of a terrified young boy (played variously by brothers Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti). But he is rescued from execution by a mysterious figure called Shaman (Yayan Ruhian).  Deep in the woods Shaman trains the boy to become a perfect weapon designed to overthrow the evil regime. 

Boy (now a young man played by Bill Skarsgård), who is unable to hear or speak but has adopted an inner voice taken from a video game he used to play (H. Jon Benjamin provides it, sounding rather like Tim McIntire’s Blood in “A Boy and His Dog”), and is often distracted by the appearance of what is apparently the ghost of Mina, is in the city on the eve of the Culling.  There he witnesses the selection process conducted by Hilda’s brother Glen (Sharlto Copley) and brother-in-law Gideon (Brett Gelman), who argue like some goofy comic duo over the speech Gideon has written for Glen to deliver. 

Boy impulsively springs into action, beginning the war he will wage against the Van der Koys; hordes of soldiers, including the strange, helmeted June 27 (Jessica Rothe), all under the control of Hilda’s sister (and Gideon’s wife) Melanie (Michelle Dockery), are after him.  He does have some unlikely allies—braggart Basho (Andrew Koji) and gibbering giant Benny (Isaiah Mustafa)—but that doesn’t stop him from being captured.  They do save him, however, at the televised Culling extravaganza—in which the selectees are to be killed by executioners dressed up as the cartoon characters that advertise the cereals of the company sponsoring the broadcast—where he is among the potential victims.  Then Boy turns his attention to the tower in which Hilda is ensconced.

Up to this point the movie has been a relentless barrage of gory martial-arts fights, gun battles, bloody demises and puerile jokes, delivered with hysterically garish flamboyance by the cast, director Mohr, cinematographer Peter Matjasko, editor Lucian Barnard and innumerable stunt doubles and CGI artists, all to the accompaniment of Ludvig Forssell’s blaring score.  But now the script throws a curve ball that won’t be revealed here, except to say that it forces Boy to look at his past with different eyes and engage in one final gruesome brawl.  A post-credits scene discloses his future. 

The entire cast play this errant nonsense with almost lunatic dedication, but in that department Copley, Gelman, Ruhian, Mustafa and Koji are truly exceptional, though in this instance that hardly constitutes a compliment.  On the other hand, you have to single out Skarsgård for praise, not just for his physical dexterity (even if it’s often obviously aided by the CGI engineers), but for bringing a dotty sort of silent-movie naiveté to the guileless title character.    

Incidentally, in a reversal of the normal process, the movie has spawned a video game called “Super Dragon Punch Force 3,” modeled on the one that inspires Boy.  It becomes available the same day the movie premieres.  Let’s hope this doesn’t start a trend.