All The King's Men

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All The King's Men
Review (3/10)
(By Erin Cullin)

In 1946, Robert Penn Warren wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning novel entitled "All the King's Men".

In 1949, Robert Rossen directed the film adaptation of "All the King's Men". The film, starring Broderick Crawford, Mercedes McCambridge and John Ireland won several Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor, and in 2001 it was deemed to be a culturally significant film and was added to the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

In 2006, the film has been disastrously made again by director Steve Zaillian.

This film is, without a doubt, the worst movie that I watched at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. I passed up the opportunity to attend the One x One party hosted by Matt Damon (and that Brad Pitt apparently attended) to attend the gala premiere of this movie. And when I am old and grey and reflecting on the great mistakes I have made in my life, I am quite certain that decision will be close to the top of the list.

All the King's Men is the story of Willie Stark, a self-described "hick" who successfully climbs the political ladder to become the Governor of Louisiana. Although he runs on a platform of combatting the corruption and greed of the incumbent candidate, once in office he becomes consumed by the very forces that he ran to stop. It is a cautionary tale, as relevant today as it was when it was written in 1946.

Although he had some outstanding material to work with, Zaillian's adaptation of Warren's novel fails on so many levels it is difficult to choose which failure dealt the film its final death blow. It is also difficult to choose which to write about in the short space that I have to write this review, so I am going to stick to two - casting and editing.

Casting is a fundamental element of any film. This film, unfortunately is plagued by at least two serious casting errors, in the form of Jude Law and James Gandolfini. Whose idea was it to cast an actor with an English accent and an actor with a New York accent in roles where they were expected to have a thick southern drawl? Was Jude Law too busy bedding his children's nanny to attend lessons with his voice coach? Or did the film just not have the budget for a voice coach? I don't know what happened, but the casting of Law and Gandolfini in this film was, to me, a glaring and fatal error.

Editing is also a fundamental element of any film. You can have stellar performances and an outstanding script (neither of which are present here in any event), but if the footage is edited poorly, it can lead to disaster. I am not sure how to describe the editing of this film. Scenes that should have been longer were cut short, while scenes that should have been shorter were allowed to run until the viewer (myself included) started to fall asleep. The film jumped from scene to scene without any apparent reason or direction. It was difficult to follow to the point of being frustrating to watch.

Some, including my brother Brendan, have suggested that Sean Penn may be nominated for an Academy Award for his peformance in this film. While Penn's performance is outstanding (when isn't it), I have some difficulty agreeing that a good performance in an otherwise horrible movie will manage to withstand the scrutiny of the Academy. Having said that, I can't really say that there have been many Oscar-worthy performances yet this year, so maybe Penn's performance will be the exception to the rule.

In the end, I think that the studio, the actors and the audience at the premiere I attended said everything that needs to be said about this film. The release date of this film was pushed back from December 2005 to September 2006 to allow the film to be re-tooled. The actors didn't even bother to stay to watch the film at the screening I attended (although the fact that he couldn't smoke may have been what kept Sean Penn away). And, several people walked out of that same screening within the first half hour - no small feat when you consider that they each paid at least $30.00 a ticket.

And that, folks, more than any review, should tell you everything you need to know about this film.

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