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A motiveless malignancy? Elvis leaves the Navy and heads for Texas where he contacts his father, whom he's never met, the pastor at a Christian community church. Pastor Dave tells Elvis to stay away and, without telling his family that Elvis is his son from a pre-conversion liaison, tells them to have nothing to do with him. But Elvis has already connected with Malerie, the pastor's 16-year old daughter. Elvis embarks on the seduction of Malerie, while Dave examines his conscience and comes to a new conclusion. Can anyone get right with the Lord? Does the Lord hear? Written by
An unflinching and at times disturbing look at cause and effect, 'The King' is an oddly satisfying experience to be had. It takes you on a journey, from an unsuspecting state that descends so deeply into evil there's no turning back, but no looking away. With an uncomfortable final act and an equally unsettling performance by Gael Garcia Bernal, 'The King' is elevated to explosive heights. Stirring from beginning to end, this independent film is thought-provoking and a welcome surprise.
After being discharged from the Navy, Elvis (Bernal) sets out on a journey to meet the father he's never known. His father, David Sandow (William Hurt), is a devout Christian and a pastor at a local church in Texas. David rejects his son, for he sees him as an illegitimate son born out of wedlock during a time in his life he's chosen to forget. Elvis is told to stay away from his estranged father and family, but unknowing that Elvis is her half-brother, 16-year-old Malerie gives her virginity to him and embarks on a passionate relationship. But in a small Texas community like the one in Corpus Christi, secrets have their way of rising to the top and bubbling over. And for David and his family, many unexpected and devastating twists of fate await them.
A low-budget effort from British director James Marsh, 'The King' comes through and finds its footing thanks to a compelling script. What's funny about a film like 'The King' is how it doesn't immediately pull you in, but slowly wraps you in its web of brooding darkness. And before you know it, you're smothered by it. It's the kind of film that will find its way into your head long after it's over with. It raises some provoking issues, including the dark side of religion and how one simple choice can have a destructing and devastating chain of results. But the most interesting question remains, can a person be born evil? Was Elvis, who under the Christian perspective was born in sin, a damned child from birth? The viewer watches the character worm his way into the Sandow family, they watch him descend into evil, all until it's too late. No turning back. Can anyone truly 'get right with the Lord'? Are Elvis' intentions pure damnation and destruction, or is he somehow seeking redemption?
'The King' is filled with many unexpected and unpleasant twists. Yet with each turn, Marsh's directorial skills become that much more impressive. It's gritty and edgy, and driven by exceptional performances. For years now Gael Garcia Bernal has been the star of many (excellent) underground Spanish-speaking films, including 'Y Tu Mama Tambien', 'Bad Education, and 'Amores Perros', but perhaps is best known for his powerful role as Che Guevera in 'The Motorcycle Diaries'. And as he begins to enter American cinema (he stars in this year's best film, 'The Science of Sleep', in which he masters English and French in addition to speaking Spanish), his choice of character-driven roles suggests that the independent route may suit him better than the lure of Hollywood and special effects. His boyish charm makes him the perfect choice for the role of Elvis, his charm bleeds through the screen. Even William Hurt's eyebrow raising character, based off of John Mark Byers from Paradise Lost, is powerful and compelling to watch.
'The King' remains one of 2006's best undiscovered gems. It may not be what you'd call entertaining, but you'll find it difficult to look away. Raw and natural, 'The King' is a film told by characters and not by a camera, and sometimes that makes all the difference. James Marsh proves himself to be a capable and very talented director, who takes command of this heavy film and turns it into an experience as engrossing as it is uneasy. It's dark and deeply disturbing, yet very intelligent, and 'The King' indeed takes the crown.
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