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The King
DVD disk
9 years ago By: Jason Adams
The King order
Director:
James Marsh

Actors:
Gael Garcia Bernal
William Hurt
Pell James

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Recently released from the Navy, Elvis Valderez sets out for Texas to meet his father for the first time. Unfortunately, “Daddy” turns out to be William Sandow, a pastor for a local church who already has a faithful and loving family, and who views Elvis as an unwelcome reminder of a previous life of sin that should just be ignored. But Elvis is not willing to give up, even if that means committing murder or forming an unhealthy relationship with his would-be half sister.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
I never saw MONSTER’S BALL, but it shares a writer with THE KING and from what I’ve heard about the former, the latter also retains quite a bit thematically—namely with regards to familial dysfunction, forbidden love and its portrait of the South. THE KING also adds the touchy element of religion to the mix, but director James Marsh keeps the movie from outright criticizing its devout Christian characters and instead uses their beliefs to inject an intriguing dynamic in to the tale of domesticity.

Overall, THE KING is a mildly disturbing look at about the concept of family and the implications of judgment. Marsh’s direction is surprisingly skillful, but it’s the actors’ performances that make this movie as effective as it is. In the last few years, Gael Garcia Bernal has proven himself a young actor to be reckoned with, and not just in foreign movies. You’re never quite sure of Elvis’s motivations or intentions and Bernal plays the balance perfectly. William Hurt is given an equally complicated character and really sinks his teeth in to the role, giving his most passionate performance in years.

While the acting is great, that doesn’t save the characters from being terribly underwritten. Laura Harring is the biggest victim here; the mother in this situation should have a large role, but Harring unfortunately spends the majority of the movie in the background doing a good Diane Lane impression. Even the two main characters never get fleshed out quite enough to keep you empathizing with them. And while I do think the final scene is effective, the ending overall comes too quickly and never truly capitalizes on all the build up and tension THE KING works so hard to create. The result is a story that I couldn’t discern was trying to be a tale of complex love, brutal revenge or a spiritual tragedy. At first the discrepancy was kind of cool, but by the end credits it left me expecting more.
THE EXTRAS
The standard extras are included:

Commentary by writer/producer Milo Addica and writer/director James Marsh: Not a bad commentary, but the two are a bit too formal and stodgy (i.e. “Well, James, I find that scene is…”) which makes it a tough listen.

Deleted Scenes (6:54): Three scenes; nothing of consequence, although there is a bit more that deals with Elvis and Malerie’s “problem” that wouldn’t have hurt to be left in.

Rehearsal Scene (2:49): Some test footage of the confrontation between Bernal and Paul Dano. Both guys are solid actors and it pretty much follows the final scene, beat by beat.

A Theatrical Trailer and Previews for movies you’ve never heard of.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
THE KING hasn’t been getting much press (at least I haven’t heard anything about it), which on one hand sucks because William Hurt and Gael Garcia Bernal put forth some stellar acting, but then again the movie as a whole didn’t blow me away. You could do a lot worse picking this up at the video store, but you could also do better.

Extra Tidbit: 29 year old Pell James plays a 16 year old in the movie film and did not tell director James Marsh about her real age until filming had finished.
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