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  Publicity Stills of "The King"
(Courtesy from Cathay-Keris Films)

Genre: Drama/Suspense Thriller
Director: James Marsh
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, William Hurt, Pell James, Paul Dano, Laura Helena Harring
RunTime: 1 hr 45 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: R21(Mature Content)

Opening Day: 18 January 2007


In this powerful and dramatic thriller about betrayal and bitter revenge, a handsome young US Marine called Elvis (GAEL GARCIA BERNAL - The Motorcycle Diaries, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Amores Perros) returns to his Preacher father's sleepy hometown dreaming for some kind of reconciliation - having been abandoned by the man as a child. Elvis walks through the world with an effortless charm, and seems to be the very embodiment of hope and enthusiasm. But now the Preacher (WILLIAM HURT - The Village, A.I.) has a new family, and is in no mood to confront his past mistakes, so he callously rejects Elvis again - and this flippant act of cruelty sets off a course of action from which the Preacher and his family may never recover... Written by Milo Addica (Monster's Ball, Birth), THE KING is a controversial tale of tragic retaliation and twisted love.

Movie Review:

The King referred to in the “The King” is by no means a companion piece to Stephen Frears’s “The Queen” but nestles into a more reserved and darkly enamouring portrait of a humanistic animal that thrusts himself into idyllic Americana, a bastard in all sense of the word.

“The King” is unsettlingly aorist in its attempt to create a monstrous human named Elvis (Gael Garcia Bernal) and only hints at the rationale behind the shocking madness and chaos that he brings upon the revered Reverend Sandow (William Hurt), the well-liked minister of a church in Texas and his family. It sets up a confrontation between the two Kings (the other being Jesus of course) so delicately delivered that it tears the misguided minister’s life apart as his sinful past hangs ominously above him.

The charismatically endowed Bernal uses that particular gift to the fullest extent in his first English-speaking role. He charms those around him with a smile on his face and a wide-eyed naiveté that hides frightening intelligence and malevolence. Straight out of the Navy, he makes his way and traces his past to Corpus Christi to locate someone specific. When Elvis does find the Reverend Sandow, he puts a face on the preacher’s sordid past, one that the pastor left behind after he met Christ. Both men come to a standstill as their feelings are laid bare and wounded.

Too mapped out to consider the film a character study of Bernal’s Elvis Valderez, it’s more concerned with the effects of an intruding figure into the strictly Christian family’s existence. The virginal daughter’s sudden encroachment into womanhood takes a twisted turn while a Bible-thumper in training is given a rude shock about his devotion to his faith. The pastoral patriarch finds no solace in his God as the silent wife stands on the wayside but understands more than anyone else realises. Even then, we’re left to figure out the overtures and aftermath of the preceding and proceeding actions of each character, each one phenomenally acted upon. It’s a refreshing and brave venture that strikes deep into the heart of those lauded all-American values, revealing the shallow facades and decadence that lie beneath a conceit of morality.

The allusions to Biblical iconography are the focal point of the film. The hypocrisies and delusions of Christian fundamentalism are given the full work around by director James Marsh with the co-scripting of Milo Addica whose most recognised works in “Monster’s Ball” and “Birth” share fleeting semblances with the characters in “The King”. These are the characters that are so understated and subtle in their motivations, and so removed from their own reality that we become enthralled by their obsessions and casuistries. The camera follows Elvis so languidly and breezily that the red-state coastal city seems a natural locale for this story’s Shakespearean portions of betrayal, incest and bloodshed.

Movie Rating:

(Disturbing and turbulent with a great ensemble)

Review by Justin Deimen


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