KINGS – A Review by Cynthia Flores
This new film should have been much better based solely on the great actors booked to do this gig and its pedigree. Add to that the timely topic of race tensions being told by setting this fictional story in Los Angles between the March 1991 shooting of Latasha Harlans, the fifteen-year-old African-American high school student who was shot to death by an older female convenience store owner from South Korea and the April 1992 not guilty verdict for the Rodney King beating. The film cites the shooting of Latasha as one of the causes of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
So why did this film feel like such a lost opportunity. I will lay the blame solely at the feet of the writer/director Deniz Gamze Erguven. This is her second, much anticipated, feature film. Her first film, 2015 Mustang, won her big awards and was actually shortlisted for a best foreign film slot at the Academy Awards. Not a bad way to be introduced to the film world. Perhaps this film is just her sophomore slump, one can only hope.
Kings tells the story of the life of a foster family in gritty South Central Los Angeles. Life was tough growing up in the shadow of police brutality with growing tensions between the various races living in such a diverse community. We see Millie Dunbar (Halle Berry) as a big hearted woman who despite her meager financial abilities can’t turn away a kid in need. So, her house is really full with ages ranging from toddlers to teens. All of the mostly good kids came from troubled homes. They work as a big family that takes care of each other while Millie “mom” bakes desserts and 7UP cakes to sell to local restaurants to make ends meet.
We see most of the story from her eyes and the eyes of her oldest kid and helper Jesse Cooper (Lamar Johnson). Both are changed by the tensions building in the hood while everyone waits for the Rodney King verdict to come in. The two characters are also pivotal points for the romances contained in the film. Millie is surprised by what develops with the crazy, mostly drunk, neighbor Obie Hardison (Daniel Craig) who turns out to be more than he appears on the surface. While Jesse is heartbroken by the unrequited love of Nicole Patterson (Rachel Hilson) who is a beautiful, smart, and self destructive fellow student from high school. Jesse saves her from her new homeless state.
Kings has touching and remarkably funny moments but nothing is really sustained. Once the riots start it seems like a totally different movie. If you are a hardcore Halle Berry or Daniel Craig fan then catch this movie on VOD but you do not need to rush out to see it on the big screen. Because it was such an uneven film I give it only a C rating.
Directed By Deniz Gamze Erguven
Written By Deniz Gamze Erguven
Selig Rating C
Running Time 1hr 32min
Drama / Romance
Wide Release April 27th and VOD
Starring: Halle Berry, Daniel Craig, Lamar Johnson, Kaalan Walker, Nicole Patterson
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.