All The King's Men

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All The King's Men
Review (4.5/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

"All The King's Men" features an all-star cast that includes Sean Penn, Jude Law, James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Hopkins. The movie is basically the story of Willie Stark (Penn), a working man's (and woman's) politician who rises to power during the 1940's and 50's and becomes the governor of the state of Louisiana, despite all the political corruption, greed, betrayal and all that wonderful stuff he encounters. Apparently Willie Stark is based on a real-life Louisiana political legend named Huey Long, who took the same path to power in the 1930's. Stark is a common man, a poor pig-farmer-turned-political-idealist, and he promises to use the taxpayers money to build roads, schools, bridges and to help the working class people. At the time of his ascent to power, the state was run by wealthy men and big corporations and they didn't take too kindly to Stark's philosophies. In fact the rich bastards, at first, tried to use Stark to run for office to split the red-neck vote and get one of their bootlickers in office but Stark caught on to their game and turned their little plan against them. And although Stark encountered a multitude of resistance, he still used his charming personality and his affinity to give animated and uplifting speeches and he rallied the people to became Louisiana's flamboyant, arm-waving governor. Unfortunately, he also became a changed man, as it seemed his newfound power went to his head (and other places) and yet he still marched on and fought for his people. The hostility he encountered did not stop Stark but his staff were still forced to defend his position as many of his detractors pushed for his impeachment. So goes the story of "All The King's Men", in a nutshell. It chronicles the rise and fall of Governor Willie Stark. The movie, for the most part, is narrated by Jude Law's character, Jack Burden, a one-time newpaper reporter and Stark's disillusioned political advisor.

Despite the movie's tremendous cast and an absolutely stunning performance by Sean Penn, "All The King's Men" isn't a great movie. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to even say it is a good movie. For one thing, it's story is, for the most part, a complete bore. I mean, in the entire movie, there is but one scenerio that really gets you going - during Willie's campaign for governor when he realizes what needs to be done for him to win the election. An entire movie, with Sean Penn acting his heart out and there is one scene that will really get your juices flowing. I didn't even really feel the whole rise and fall thing that Stark was going through. I mean, he got in power and tried to sleep with every woman in site, but isn't that what most politicians do? Even the sort of shocking ending really didn't come as a surprise. It came as more of a relief that things were finally over, at least to me.

The movie looks great, I will give it that. Some of the cinematography is quite outstanding and the look and feel of the movie certainly mirrors what we would expect the state of Louisiana to look like at that time in history.

But despite the great look of "All The King's Men", the sound was a whole other story. It's next to impossible to figure out what a lot of the actors are saying half the time. Listening to Jude Law and his thick English accent and James Gandolfini with his New Jersey mafia accent, trying to struggle their way through the southern twang is enough to make you want to put your head through a wall. Even Penn is difficult to comprehend but at least he was enthusiastic in doing so. Hell, I'm not even sure I cared what he said half the time. He would be yelling about pigs and racoons and black people and whatever. I just enjoyed watching him do it. Hopkins didn't even bother with the accent. He spoke British and I could understand him just fine.

I suppose, in the end, I basically found the movie to be all over the place. The story is way too convoluted. The characters were convoluted. You never really get to know or appreciate most of the cast. There was some dreadful miscasting in the movie. It was hard to know what was going on in too many scenes and the movie moved way too slowly for about 80% of its playing time. It wants to be a passionate movie but it is not. It wants to be a thrilling movie but it is not. "All The King's Men" really does nothing for you at all except maybe it gives you more of an appreciation for Sean Penn who, without a doubt, is one of the finest actors alive on the planet today. His performance is Oscar-worthy and I would be surprised if he does not get a nomination when January rolls around. It's just too bad the rest of the movie doesn't follow suit. I'm not even sure I would blame the actors for this disappointment. They probably did the best job they could given the script they were forced to work with.

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