Tag Archives: Jessica Rothe

It’s a Brawl World After All

Boy Kills World

by George Wolf

Boy Kills World feels like a film the gamers are going to love.

For the rest of us, it offers a hyper stylized, uber-violent riff on The Hunger Games by way of Kill Bill while it harbors Deadpool aspirations and a coy surprise waiting in act three. But while the style is never in doubt, real substance is lacking.

Bill Skarsgård supplies plenty of physical charisma as “Boy,” whose family was murdered years earlier during a lethal event known as “The Culling.” Once a year in this post apocalyptic landscape, enemies of ruling matriarch Hilda Van Der Koy (Famke Janssen) are rounded up and executed for sport and entertainment. Though Boy survived the assault, he was left deaf and mute, and has spent several years training with a mysterious shaman (Yayan Ruhian) until the time was right to take his revenge.

Against the shaman’s advice, Boy feels the time is now. And though he’s evolved into a singular killing machine, Boy is not alone. He has an inner voice adopted from a favorite video game (veteran voice actor H. Jon Benjamin), and a fever dream imagination that often bickers with the ghost of his rebellious little sister (Quinn Copeland).

On the eve of another Culling, Boy’s martial arts rampage of blood begins, and one of his early weapons of choice is a cheese grater.

Go on.

In his debut feature, director and co-writer Moritz Mohr skillfully captures the frenzied, level-up mayhem of video games. Cinematographer Peter Matjasko, composer Ludvig Forssell and editor Lucian Barnard help complete the gaming pastiche, while the screenplay keeps Benjamin supplied with commentary that’s consistently fueled by meta-sarcasm that never hits the master level of self-awareness.

As Boy starts up the ladder of the Van Der Koy family (Michelle Dockery, Brett Gelman, Sharlto Copley) and their Head of Security (Jessica Rothe), he falls in with a group known as the Resistance before the narrative takes its unexpected pivot.

Boy’s states of delirium have already opened the door for an unreliable narrator, so Mohr commits considerable effort (and exposition) in making sure we understand the twist.

But what we need even more is a reason to care.

Much like Hardcore Henry almost ten years ago, the film’s gaming mindset results in action that is visually exciting, but as emotionally empty as a “Play again?” reset. There’s never any motivation to get invested in the stakes, or in the attitude that often reeks of desperation hipness.

So while Boy Kills World‘s target audience may be blown away, those outside the center will find some tedium inside this finely orchestrated mayhem.

There’s no doubt you’ll find a few new uses for your cheese grater.

A Very Merry Unbirthday

Happy Death Day 2U

by Hope Madden

Two years ago, writer/director Christopher Landon’s Happy Death Day managed the unexpected. It took an immediately tiresome premise—Groundhog Day meets Scream—and generated enough audience good will to entertain.

This was mainly thanks to Jessica Rothe, whose performance was funny enough to be simultaneously likable and detestable, and whose character arc mostly felt earned. (Bill Murray’s are big shoes to fill.)

Well, Rothe is back for a second helping of death day cake, as is Landon, who again writes and directs. Can the pair keep the story fresh for a sequel?

Why, no. Thanks for asking.

Where the original was a funny slasher with a SciFi bent, the sequel is a standard Eighties romcom with an occasionally morbid sense of humor. Think Real Genius, only dumber and more tedious.

Or Zapped. Remember Zapped?

Tree (Rothe) believes she’s broken free of her murderous time loop by killing the person who was out to kill her—and learning some hard-won life lessons in the meantime.

She was wrong, though, because the truth is that her boyfriend Carter’s (Israel Broussard) weird roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) has gotten all Timecrimes in the college lab and that’s what caused the loop. In fact, it’s causing another loop into a parallel dimension.

Everyone from the original is back and almost the same as last time (because this is a parallel universe). Any new character who is not white joins Ryan in the lab. Nerds – another sad Eighties theme that won’t stay dead.

Slapstick humor (Oh, this blind French thing is enough to make your brain bleed) and dumbfounding gaps in logic follow. A list of what does not follow: tension, horror, laughter.

Seriously, though, if you haven’t seen Nacho Vigalondo’s 2007 mindbender Timecrimes, you should definitely do that instead of going to HDD2U.

Oh! You know what else is great in that SciFi/time loop/horror neighborhood? The Endless.

The point is, if you are in the mood for some genre bending SciFi fun, you won’t find it here.

And Many More…

Happy Death Day

by Hope Madden

It’s funny how long it took people to rip off the Groundhog Day conceit—20 years, basically. No one really revisited the “day on repeat” idea (Source Code came close, but it wasn’t a full day) until Tom Cruise’s surprisingly high-quality 2014 flick Edge of Tomorrow.

It took twenty years to redo it once, and yet I’ve seen at least 9 of these this year. OK, I’ve seen two (Happy Death Day, Before I Fall) and am aware of two others (Naked, Premature). Still, that’s a lot. It’s like sitting through the same events over and over and over and over again with no idea why it’s happening or how to make it stop.

Happy Death Day does what it can to make up for its lacking originality with a tight pace and compelling lead performance.

Tree (Jessica Rothe) wakes up on her birthday in some rando’s dorm room with no memory of the night before, a raging hangover and an attitude. She’s murdered that night by a knife-wielding marauder in a plastic baby mask, only to wake up back in that same dorm room under that same They Live poster.

Repeat ad nauseam.

It doesn’t take too many déjà vu mornings before Tree decides there is a mystery to solve here and just like that, we’re off in Phil Connors territory: reliving the same day again and again gives you the chance to become a better person, right?

If, like Tree, you are unaware of Groundhog Day, Phil Connors is the Bill Murray character doomed to relive February 2 until he…well, if you haven’t seen it I don’t want to ruin it for you. But the fact that Happy Death Day addresses the groundhog in the room is part of its self-aware, played-for-comedy charm.

Rothe boasts strong comic timing and a gift for physical comedy, a skill that transitions nicely to the demands of being repeatedly victimized by a slasher.

Director Christopher Landon (Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) wisely mines Scott Lobdell’s screenplay for laughs. Given the repetitive, bloodless nature of the kills, trying to generate scares would have been a tough go.

The mystery absolutely does not hold up, red herrings are silly and fairly pointless, and whatever charm the filmmakers infuse into this recycled premise wears off just a tad before the credits roll. Still, there are funny bits and clever moments peppered throughout what is easily this year’s best Groundhog Day ripoff.