Penn is beyond over-the-top as Stark, who shouts and flails his arms about like a more vicious Lewis Black. One would expect more from the cast (especially Penn, who is merely passable), who we assume could recognize such a poorly conceived screenplay by director Zaillian (I’ll exclude Mark Ruffalo from this statement, considering his extreme lack of talent to begin with).
Another guilty party is Jude Law, who is a genuine talent, delivering great turns in the past decade. But his need to be included on such an “important” film distracts him into a stale performance as right-hand man Jack Burden. We hope Law’s voice-over will provide some glue to hold this disaster together, but it’s merely filling in blanks that shouldn’t be there to begin with.
Nothing seems fully developed in All The King’s Men, with many scenes of the present and flashback jerking about each other like an editing major’s after-class experiment. Even with the constant flashback/voiceover nonsense, there is no depth to these characters. This all leads up to, of course, a rather unsatisfying ending, where the true message of the filmmakers seems to be pushed aside for a cheap jolt.
Few strengths save the film from being terrible, lifting it to the level of bad. I point to Polish-born cinematographer Pawel Edelman, whose works is simply beautiful to look at. Anthony Hopkins keeps his short moments intriguing enough to warrant him a smile and nod. Other than that, All The King’s Men was quite a waste of talent.
With a plot aimed to make a poignant statement on modern politics, it’s quite disappointing that one walks away with nothing new added to their logic.
An American Classic (13:11): This 13-minute feature is a tribute to the original, Pulitzer-Prize winning novel by Robert Penn Warren, with tidbits about Huey Long, whom the book was inspired. Everyone has a personal take on the work, giving in-depth reasoning for their strong admiration. It’s talky, but might inspire some to actually read the novel.
La. Confidential: On Location (8:27): Although typical for DVDs, this one’s got a little more to offer. We get a small history lesson and understand the importance of Huey Long more than the feature offered. note: Mark Ruffalo enjoyed the food and parties. Is he a little kid or something?
Shake Hands with the Devil (10:29): …Which is exactly what the cast did when they signed their contracts (rim shot, anyone?). Here, they relate the film to modern politics. Yeah, we get that’s why you made the film in the first place. Corruption this, greed that. So everything you learned from Wall Street is wrong, folks!
The Legend and Lore of Huey Long (23:19): This documentary takes a close look at Louisiana politician Huey Long, whom the film and book are based. The filmmakers and historians weigh in on the impact (good and bad) Long left on politics and the South. Filled with archival footage, this is a great feature for history buffs, and worlds more interesting than the feature.
And rounding out the disc are 2 deleted scenes, which are no different than the film itself: lousy and needless. Lump the Alternate Ending into that category as well.