Political thriller is dreadfully flawed
It wouldn't be surprising if the Robert Penn novel bearing the same name as the film proved more impressive than the movie. But then again, it would not be a large accomplishment for a book or a movie to surpass the quality of "All the King's Men," an unimpressive movie encompassing the moral and political downfall of Willie Stark, who is based loosely off the Louisiana politician Gov. Huey Long.
The innumerable flaws of the movie begin as the viewer is bound to grow tired of hanging onto every word and struggling to understand the plot of the movie as it surfaces amid a tiresome, over-dramatic build-up of ominous music and dry conversation. After hearing Stark's political ideas, the corrupt politician, Tiny Duffy convinces him to run for Governor of Louisiana. When acquaintances Jack Burden and Sadie Burke reveal that Duffy is using Stark as a pawn in his devious plot to swing the vote, Stark publicly exposes Duffy and commits himself to the election. The target of Stark's campaign is the poor citizens of Lousiana, and he wins by a landslide, gaining loyal supporters in the poor, and vengeful enemies in the rich. Politics, however corrupt the once moral man, and he becomes intertwined in scandal and lies, which contribute to his inevitable downfall.
The first half hour of the film directed by Steven Zallian, is headed in a vague direction. The first few scenes consist of serious, quick conversations that are too boring to keep up with. Even impressive performances by a powerhouse cast including Sean Penn, Jude Law, James Gandolfini, and Patricia Clarkson can't redeem the movie from its dull state of mediocrity Despite this stellar cast, the slow plot is disappointing and undeniably and boring.
Though he gives a passionate performance, Sean Penn seems to go over the top in his portrayal of Willie Stark. During his speeches, Penn accurately resembles a sloppy drunkard rather than the witty, impassioned political figure of Stark. "Nail 'em up!" Penn cries to a crowd of his loyal followers, who he refers to as "hicks." Over the swelling music and cries of the crowd, Penn's voice cracks off key as he shrieks, waving his arms like a madman, indicating that the actor is trying too hard.
The plot of "All the King's Men" is not the real problem of the film. The insight into the corruptions of politics is a serious and interesting point which the movie succeeds in proving. Rather, the problem is the slow pacing and dramatic build up with little action. Thus, it cannot be accurately categorized as a thriller. Running 120 minutes, the length of the movie seems unnecessarily long, and though the plot is complex, it could have easily been condensed by a half hour.
The director, Zallian lacked the experience to take on a movie such as this, and though he hired a top-of-the-line Hollywood cast, his inexperience shows as his poor decisions easily outnumber his good ones. The bleak Louisiana scenery and intense music choice is bound to either lull the viewer to sleep or let his or her mind wander. The script also seems unnecessarily over-complicated, forcing the audience to hang on every word in order to comprehend the several scandals before they unfold.
"All the King's Men" is not the appropriate choice for a thriller, or a quality movie. With nothing enjoyable to focus on besides Jude Law's appearance, an interminable "All the King's Men" should be viewed with caution.
"All the King's Men" (120 minutes, in area theaters) is rated PG-13 for an intense sequence of violence, sexual content and partial nudity.
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