All The King’s Men

Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts

Starring: Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo
Director: Steven Zaillian

What a cast list. What a ‘borefest’. ALL THE KING’S MEN is unfortunately dull as ditch water with a plodding, heavy script, highly unsympathetic characters and little relevance to a British audience.

Based on Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and inspired by the book’s examination of the career of Louisiana governor Huey P Long and others, the film tells the story of Governor Willie Stark, who rose from Hick to King of the Hicks in 1920s Louisiana.

Sadly, watching Sean Penn as Stark pissed for most of the movie ranting on like a loon is not interesting. Jude Law acquits himself admirably as Stark’s right hand man and ‘fixer’, Jack Burden. But his silent and disillusioned character who feels nothing is not only more dangerous than Stark’s, but even more unsympathetic.

Supposedly the tale of a good man corrupted I could see very little good in Stark to begin with, only a thinly disguised hunger for power and alcohol. Why nobody in the movie remarked about his alcohol problem is strange, unless it was normal in 20s Louisiana or it just wasn’t polite to mention it back then.

The worst offences are the highly unlikeable characters (all of them) and the subject matter. An examination of politics, corruption and morality, it’s clearly meant to be a heavyweight political movie but has just ended up swallowing itself up in its own political rear end. There’s the occasional hint that Stark might have got something done for the people but you’re never told whether he actually achieved much of what he promised, which adds to the difficulty in trying to see him sympathetically.

I’m not sure whether the idea to adapt this to screen was just a bad choice on the producer’s part or whether it was just dully scripted. Whatever the reason, don’t put yourself through it.

2 out of 6 stars

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