Message from the King is a 2016 American revenge action thriller film directed by Fabrice Du Welz (Alleluia), starring Chadwick Boseman (Captain America: Civil War), Luke Evans (Dracula Untold), Teresa Palmer (Lights Out), and Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2). The film’s plot revolves around a man from South Africa who travels to Los Angeles in order to avenge his younger sister’s death.
- Great performances by Boseman and Palmer
- Fights are brutal
- Great shots of the city
- Unoriginal, generic story
- Paper thin characters
- The writing is lackluster
- Jacob King is a flat character
Plot: The story is painfully predictable especially since we’ve seen this same scenario play out a million times before. The ending is pretty anti-climatic although it does leave off on a happy ending. The bad guys are dead, Kelly and Boot are set for life, and the lone wanderer heads off into the sunset. This story has been tirelessly played out however, it does nothing to deviate from the standard formula. The ending does have a twist where it is revealed that King is a detective but it hardly seems relevant. (2 out of 5)
Characters: The characters are a bit of a mixed bag. While some are good there are plenty of cliches. Jacob King (Boseman) is the lone ranger of the film, traveling to America to find that his sister has been murdered and he decides to get a bit of revenge. There’s nothing really to the character that makes him memorable. He’s grim all of the time, doesn’t really have any unique or likable traits. We don’t learn enough about him or his relationship with his sister Bianca until the end of the film which reveals he’s a detective but nothing in the film supports it. The only real thing we see is that in a dream sequence Bianca’s running down a beach. The only likable characters are Kelly (Teresa Palmer) and Boot (Ava Kolker). Sure, they’re pretty cliche but they’re the most realistic characters. Would’ve liked to have seen more about them. Everyone else are pretty much douchebags. From the moment they come onto the screen, you know who the bad guys are and their position in the story. Evans’ character Paul Wentworth is literally an obvious bad guy and he just screws everyone over for really no reason at all. (2 out of 5)
Cast: The casting and performances are pretty decent. Boseman does a pretty good job with the material he’s given. He does manage to be pretty convincing while also presenting enough emotion lend depth to the character. There are some obvious talents. Luke Evans, Alfred Molina, and Teresa Palmer are just great in the performances. Really liked Palmer’s performance, she definitely brought some emotional weight to the cast. Boseman and Palmer do have great chemistry together. The casting also includes Natalie Martinez, Tom Felton, Dale Dickey, Jake Weary, Drew Powell, Chris Mulkey, Tom Wright, Sibongile Mlambo, Anna Diop, and James Jordan. (3 out of 5)
Visuals: The action is done well enough, fight sequences are brutal but has enough blood to sell the scenes without being overly bloody. There are great shots of the land and cityscape that make the environment feel rich. (3 out of 5)
Score: The score is pretty decent but it isn’t enough to actually standout. However, Vincent Cahay and Felix Penny do a good job with the execution and that’s what counts. (3 out of 5)
Writing: The writing is pretty run-of-the-mill, and that does hurt the film. The film is slow paced and and I’m not the one to complain about pacing really if there is a good story. There is this one scene that doesn’t really make sense. Jacob is arrested by some fake cops and you think he has some interesting way of escaping but how he gets loose is just ridiculous. At its heart, this film is written to be like the revenge action films of the 80s and to its credit, it does this well. But there are a lot of 80s action films like this that aren’t good movies. Just look at most Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, and Sylvester Stallone films.
But I guess my biggest point is that everything about this movie is written to be a complete troupe with no deviation. There isn’t any strong dialogue, the characters are written to be flat, and the storytelling is unremarkable. If a better writer had been behind the script this could’ve been a solid movie. Especially with the themes that the film touches on: child pedophilia, prostitution, drug abuse. There’s this part of the movie where Jacob saves Bianca’s child because the shit’s about to hit the fan and later on you think the kid will stay with Kelly but the kid runs away. What was the point of Jacob saving this irritating kid for him to run away?
Also, there is a problem with the characterization of Jacob. Is he suppose to be this badass or a portrayed as a regular guy. Because there are several moments in the film where he has this Dirty Harry persona kicking butt and taking names. But there are others where he’s in a position you think he’s going to do something badass to address the situation but he acts like he didn’t do the badass thing that he did in the previous scene. The writing is decent but it could’ve been leagues better. (1 out of 5)
The Verdict: In the end, Message from the King is a pretty bad movie. There’s nothing original about the film and the cliches are painful. The film has some good qualities: great performances by Chadwick Boseman and Teresa Palmer, fights are pretty brutal, and some great shots of the city. However, the film is bad. The writing sucks, the main character is lackluster, the characters are cliche, and the story is unoriginal. Message from the King gets 2 out of 5.