Movie Review: Boy Kills World

Something must be established immediately concerning the drama series Bad Boy. It comes from Euphoria creator Ron Lesham, although it’s vital to note that this is referring to the original series. In other words, don’t hold Sam Levinson’s remake’s catastrophic spots against this new narrative from him and his co-writer/creator Hagar Ben-Asher. This is especially crucial given how excellent Bad Boy is.

Though there is still much more to explore, as only the first two episodes of the eight-episode series have been provided for review, it already lends a refreshing level of subtlety to its narrative of a young child who is transferred to a juvenile detention centre. At its foundation, Bad Boy is a narrative about the stories we tell ourselves about our “justice” systems, as well as the stories individuals caught up in them must tell in order to live. The end effect is a melancholy yet elegant depiction of adolescent jeopardy.

This is viewed through the eyes of Dean (Guy Menaster), a young man whom we meet when he is relaxing at home. The cops arrive unexpectedly, and the adolescent is led away. The specific motives behind this remain unknown, although it appears more probable that someone close to him was at least partially responsible. Such justifications are meaningless since he is soon warehoused in a violent juvenile prison institution where physical and mental abuse is accepted as part of the punishment.

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The warden Liraz (Heli Ben-Mior) is fully aware that there is much anguish behind the walls of her prison, but she clings to the hope that she might somehow alleviate it, even if it means becoming complicit in the system itself. Rather quickly, disaster strikes, and Dean is forced to witness a death that pits him against his fellow inmates and the prison authorities.

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The only person he appears to be able to trust is the mysterious Zoro (Havtamo Farada), with whom he finds himself in solitary confinement. The guards tell them that it is for their own safety, but this feels like a cruel joke given that the larger jail in which they are being confined poses an ever-present threat.

It’s hardly a spoiler to state that Dean will survive all of this, at least physically, since we see him as an adult who has become a successful stand-up comedian. The character, played by co-creator and writer Daniel Chen, has a fascinating, almost meta feel to it as he moulds some of his traumas into humour. Importantly, the series never romanticises or sanitises the pain present in the jail to which Dean is sentenced.

Using his experience as an investigative reporter, Lesham demonstrates that the system as a whole is not geared to assist people who finally return to society. Instead, they simply repeat the process. This is not due to any personal flaws. Rather, it is because recidivism is built into the fundamental underpinnings of modern jails. As it turns out, utterly upending people’s lives, putting them up in fundamentally dehumanising conditions, and then expecting them to just bounce back without any help is a fairly definite way to land them back in jail.

The only thing that keeps Dean together is the stories he tells. We witness him beginning to experiment with this as a young man, reinterpreting and riffing on terrible incidents from his history. They take on an almost dreamy character as directed by Hagar Ben-Asher, providing a break from the horrific reality of life within. It explains why Dean would take the agony of his past and mould it into fiction over which he has control.

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They’re also truly entertaining, putting us in ridiculous circumstances that we know are certainly overblown. Dean appears to be perfecting his talents at twisting every twist and turn in his life into comic stories in order to thoroughly engross us. When he makes his first hesitant try, he is still a child, but the series does an excellent job of illustrating how the groundwork is being laid for the stage presence he will have as an adult.

The sorrow of his comedy is highlighted by the fact that he needed to be sent to prison to uncover this gift out of necessity. While Bad Boy flirts with the cliche of art only emerging from pain, it generally transcends it by demonstrating that the tale is about Dean attempting to live and that his storytelling abilities are not determined by his confinement. His ingenuity and capacity to weave comedy out of sadness occur despite, not because of, his pain.

While the series is only beginning to explore Zoro and Dean’s relationship, there is already something quietly devastating about it. The modest chats they share in their little part of an already small world are full of emotion as they contemplate the lengthy lengths of time ahead of them and their uncertain futures. Dean’s stories are full of flare, but their stark truth is a much more agonising one that threatens to swallow them.

The series depicts this without pretence, creating an honest portrayal of youth who are forced to grow up far faster than they should. Even while Bad Boy still has some maturing to do, it has the potential to be a fantastic narrative if it continues on the path of these promising first steps.

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