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Life of a King
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Life of a King More at IMDbPro »

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24 out of 32 people found the following review useful:


Author: maxaira from Canada
20 January 2014

There are not many "feel good" movies out there today, but this one really counts among those that fill this category. Cuba Gooding has long been one of my favourite actors. He possesses a wide range of acting abilities as evidenced by "Snow Dogs" on one hand with his somewhat bland comedic style to "Gifted Hands" wherein he brings to the screen a dramatic style that is uniquely his own. It is this latter gift that he portrays in this feature as he moves from an ex-con to a giver that gives back to the community and its young confused residents, a new hope that most had never known. He portrays the real life story of Eugene Brown, a man who'd known nothing but crime for most of his life, but once he was through serving many years for armed robbery, he dedicated his life to helping other young men to see that there was more to life than crime. It's a good story made better by the fact that it was based on real life.

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16 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Different enough from the previous "helping inner city kids" movies to make it interesting and worth seeing. Never went cheesy.

Author: Tony Heck ( from United States
8 February 2014

"This is a king. This is your life. One mistake and it can be taken away." Eugene Brown (Gooding Jr.) is an ex-felon who is struggling to find a job and relate to his kids. After finding a job as a high school janitor he is asked to watch the detention kids one day until they can find a replacement. When he brings up the topic of chess he begins to change the lives of the "troubled kids" forever. I love movies based on true stories, but I was worried about seeing this going in. One one hand a true story with Cuba Gooding Jr, that is good. On the other hand though I thought how many times can they remake Lean On Me? After movies like that one and Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers, Fame, etc... I wondered how different can this one be. While I have to admit it wasn't 100% different it was very very good and much much better then I was expecting. The best part about this movie is that it stayed just a step or two away from being way to cheesy to be enjoyed but it did a good job of changing things just enough to keep it feeling real while keeping the emotion that it needed. Different enough from the previous "helping inner city kids" movies to make it interesting and worth seeing. Overall, very good and never took the over-the-top cheesy way out that so many of these types of movies do. That is a good thing and because of that I highly recommend the movie. I give this an A-.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:


Author: JayDoubleU84 from Sweden
13 March 2014

"Life of a King" is a good movie with a great story, good actors and an excellent Cuba Gooding Jr. as main character. It's all about morals, ethics and the meaning of life and constantly reminds us that we are responsible for our own actions.

Sure we've seen the same kind of movie before. "Dangerous Minds" for example to name just one. However, it does not get old and keeps you entertained the whole time. There was not one single boring moment. The chess "theme" I really liked. For once it's not football! And even as an experienced chess-player myself I can say that everything is totally legit and realistic.

Nothing more to say. Watch it.

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18 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Character and Chess are King

Author: Harlan Hodge from St. Louis, Missouri
21 January 2014

While this may seem to most "yet another Chess movie," I assure you it is not. Life of a King is more closely related to the movie, "Fresh." These movies use the game to discuss the deeper challenges facing the most vulnerable population in America. They invite people who are disconnected from these issues to use the game as a portal of understanding. The story portrayed in Life of a King could have been told without any mention of the game of Chess. Mr. Brown's redemption is played out in urban neighborhoods every day. We could have exchanged the game of Chess with basketball, golf, tennis, football or any other tool used by a responsible motivated adult to mentor lost youth. Yet, America seems to be more receptive to and in need of a different perspective on black youth. Yes, these kids have brains, soul, heart and character. This is a movie which highlights all of the above. The Life of a King is anchored by an enduring hope in the goodwill and potential of children. When many have lost hope in this generation of children, portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr., this movie is a needed reminder of what is missing; a champion for hope. No, this movie is not filled with the high intensity and hyper realism so popular today. And I am grateful for that. As a matter of fact, I was so grateful for the throwback 60's track that opens up the movie. It's a foreshadowing message that the answer to today's problem might not be something new. It might not require computers, or high stakes testing. It might not involve a "New School Transformation Model for Student Empowerment Through Advanced Study and Understanding with STEM." It might just involve men with passion getting involved with their neighborhood boys. It might just be a character development initiative. Maybe, it's just that simple.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A very good Cuba Gooding Jr. movie. Built on a great story with amazing young actors.

Author: Jesse Boland from Burnaby, BC Canada
24 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Well you are never going to believe me, but this is the darnedest truth right here. I just watched a good movie staring Cuba Gooding Jr.. I am still a bit surprised but, let's get to the movie. Solid, well acted, and heart warming. In no way a new story, but a true one. It is most like Stand and Deliver, or Dangerous Minds, but in no way a copy of either, it will just make you think of those. Even a bit of The Principal in there, but just a bit. There is no shortage of heart, even if the rival gang does give up just a bit too easy. I can only guess that they saw the positive impact as better than easy money themselves eventually. I Enjoyed the really well developed relationships between all of the characters, and the fact that Cuba's hero is strong enough to be what people need. I recommend this one to anyone, the violence is quite muted, the main story is spent mostly around the chess boards, the language is mostly tame, and there are none but the best of values to be learned from here. Really should only be an 8 the way they have PG-13 the heck out of it, but I really think you will enjoy it to the nines.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Seen it before ...

Author: Peter Pluymers ( from Kortessem, Belgium
28 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Apparently "Life of a King" is the true story of the ex-detainee Eugene Brown who founded a chess club in the slums of Washington, to keep teenagers of the streets and to teach the philosophical significance of a game of chess. I say "apparently" because I read on the internet that the real Eugene Brown only gave chess lessons at an elementary school, and certainly not at a high school. Also he would be too afraid to hang around with teenagers driving fast cars, waving with guns and trade drugs. So this movie is 95% fiction. The idea to establish a chess club for underprivileged children came from one Sergeant Michael Brown (no relation incidentally) who served in the fire department in Washington D.C.

Whether it is a slightly modified version of the real facts, actually isn't relevant. I thought it was a fascinating and poignant film about underprivileged kids who escape reality every day and don't think a descent education is important. They flee into the criminal world and turn against the social values. "Life of a King" belongs in a list of films that have appeared over the years. The content is twofold. On the one hand we have the rebellious youth rejecting any form of authority except that of a local criminal. On the other hand, we have some good Samaritan who believes that these young people do have a future and tries to help them. The subject is nothing new and there are a whole series of movies with a similar theme. From "Boys Town" and "Blackboard Jungle" to "Class of 1984" and "Dangerous Minds" . In all these movies a figure emerges who has the will and patience to put the derailed youth back on track. The biggest cliché in all these films is the fact there needs to happen a tragic accident before everyone comes to their senses.

Cuba Gooding Jr. plays a wonderful part. I'm not a big fan of Cuba, but I thought this was a magnificent performance. He always has such a somber and sad look on his face that perfectly fits this role. A broken man after a long imprisonment who realizes that his only purpose, just like a pawn in a chess game, is to protect an important person and at the end gets sacrificed. That's the message he tries to convey to the young kids. Clifton (Carlton Byrd) is the leading figure of the young ones who's dealing for a local drugs lord. He's the only one who doesn't believe in the chessgame of Eugene but immediately realizes that the latter is not quickly intimidated. Tahime (Malcolm Mays) is the timid boy with family problems and follows Clifton blindly until the end. Peanut (Kevin Hendricks) is the soft hearted of the classroom and gets handed the role of victim.

The message Eugene wants to tell, is that life is like a chess game. Once you understand and apply that to daily life, there are opportunities to escape the downward spiral. At times I found it very moving. But you have to admit that this is just an average movie with the usual clichés and predictable situations. This movie will finally end up on some TV channel that broadcasts more of this moralizing, with life stories filled, movies.

A beautiful rendition in a well known framework.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Terrific, gritty but ultimately uplifting drama with great performances

Author: yeltzmanmatt from Birmingham, England
9 December 2014

Cuba Gooding is an ex-con looking to make amends to his kids for not being the father he should have been. He finds himself teaching troubled inner city kids chess in a bid to put something back to society whilst trying to regain the trust of his own alienated kids.

Life of a King is a small movie and has familiar themes that we have seen in many other inner city dramas. What sets this one apart and makes it a must watch is the standard of the acting and a script that doesn't waste a scene. Cuba Gooding Jr is hugely charismatic and excels in this. It's something of a surprise that he isn't a bigger star though maybe he just wants it that way. Whats more of a surprise though is the quality of the mainly unknown young actors in this who all do a fantastic job especially Malcolm M Mays, showing both realism and passion.

This is a mainly gritty tale but also wonderfully inspiring with an ending that pays off. It is almost impossible not to like Life of a King which is one of the best feel good movies I've seen. This film deserves a much higher profile.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

'Whichever road you choose in life, it will start out uphill,'

Author: TxMike from Houston, Tx, USA, Earth
18 February 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We were able to view this movie on Netflix streaming movies. It is based on the real life of a man who spent 17 years in prison and came out to help others follow a better path in life.

Cuba Gooding Jr. is Eugene. While in prison he learned a bit about chess, enough to know that as a board game it can be a metaphor for life. In chess all the other pieces protect the King, and "Life of a King" can represent what each of us goes through.

Jobs are hard to get for convicted felons but he manages to get a job at the neighborhood school in Washington, D.C. as a janitor. On a whim he is asked to watch a group of unruly students in detention after the usual teacher walked out in fear. He got them interested in chess but when it came to light that he had lied on his application, saying he had never been convicted of a felony, he had to be let go.

But he found some property in disrepair that he could rent cheaply and formed the neighborhood chess club. It wasn't without significant obstacles and setbacks, but over the years it has been successful in giving disadvantaged students a better chance at life and has turned out a number of chess competition championships.

Good movie and good job by Gooding, Jr.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Trapped in Poverty and Despair

Author: Uriah43 from Amarillo, Texas
20 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After spending 17 years in prison "Eugene Brown" (Cuba Gooding Jr.) goes back to his home in Washington D.C. and tries to make an impact in the lives of young men and women who are forced to grow up under the same conditions as himself. Since he is an ex-convict he doesn't have many choices and so he decides to use chess as the means to get his message across as all too often the high school students react rather than think ahead or plan. One particularly bright student named "Tahime" (Malcolm M. Mays) becomes the focal point of Eugene's efforts as Tahime is at a definite crossroads in life due to a hopeless family situation, peer pressure and the lack of any substantive alternatives available to so many in the inner city. Now rather than reveal any more of this movie and risk spoiling it for those who haven't seen it I will just say that the director (Jake Goldberger) did a reasonable job in staying focused and presented the plight of young African-Americans trapped in poverty and despair with few recourses other than a life of crime and subsequent imprisonment. Although the performances of both Cuba Gooding Jr. and Malcolm M. Mays stood out I have to say that there were other unknown actors who performed quite solidly as well. In short, this was a pretty good movie and I rate it as above average.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Cuba Gooding's Performance Saves the Day!

Author: MovieHoliks
18 March 2015

What otherwise could've been a mere TV-movie, I'll give a borderline thumbs up to for Oscar winner Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s performance. He brings you around to caring about the plight of this ex-con who forms a chess- playing club for inner-city youths. You realize he's not perfect, has made his share of mistakes, and yes, will probably make more. But at the same time, you empathize with him, and want him to succeed. And chess?-yes, not the most exciting topic for a movie, but the movie is more about the story of the lead character and the other troubled kids in the film- look at it more as a "Dangerous Pawns" (take-off on "Dangerous Minds")..??

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