If you’re a movie buff who obtains vicarious satisfaction from a revenge flick (who doesn’t?), you may want to stream Message from the King, which had a brief theatrical showing at the Toronto International Film Festival before going directly into Netflix online distribution.
As the Inquisitr previously noted, Netflix is aggressively moving from a video library to an original content programmer.
The upside: Message from the King is only 102 minutes, so it’s not a huge time investment, and it does hold the viewer’s interest during its modest running time.
The downside: Read on.
Note: Message from the King is rated TV MA, which means it may be unsuitable for those under 17 because of language, sexual situations, or violence, and there is a lot of the latter. Plus, the characters drop enough F-bombs that the dialogue often sounds like it could be an audition for a Sopranos reboot
Warning: Spoilers follow
The Netflix movie stars Chadwick Boseman (Marvel’s Black Panther and Jackie Robinson in 42, among other credits), as a stoic, resourceful, and apparently jet lag-impervious cab driver named Jacob King from Cape Town, South Africa, who flies to Los Angeles to try to find his missing sister Bianca.
King arrives at LAX with just $600 in cash, no credit card, no place to stay, and a return ticket in one week’s time. It becomes quickly obvious, however, where the trail leads, and it’s not a nurturing environment.
Directed by Fabrice Du Welz, a Belgian filmmaker, the action opus also features solid performances by Luke Evans as a superficially genial dentist who is a crafty — to a point — negotiator/shakedown artist, Alfred Molina as a decadent Hollywood producer (is there any other kind?), and Teresa Palmer as the girl next door, sort of.
By the way, have you ever been able to make an appointment to see a dentist as fast as King does, let alone one based in upscale Beverly Hills?
That detail aside, according to ScreenDaily, “Boseman sustains a decent South African accent throughout and makes a credible dead-eyed avenger but even some of the more experienced actors fight a losing battle with their two-dimensional characters and ropey dialogue…”
The Wherever I Look website suggests that Message from The King contains the standard elements of a typical potboiler.
“The writing of this film seems very procedural. As if writers Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell were working off a checklist. Mysterious protagonist looking for someone – check. Said someone having gotten themselves into a lot of trouble they could have avoided – check. That person associating with corrupt and seedy people our protagonist often has to scare, rough up, and ends up killing – check.”
This kind of storyline might be also described as a vendetta diagram. Watch the official trailer below.
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For someone who is supposed to be a cabbie, the King character has a particular set of skills, as Taken star Liam Neeson might say, such as administering street justice with a bike chain and a pipe bomb, but this is partially explained in a swerve that occurs at the end.
Based on that plot twist, however, you have to wonder why Jacob King needs a convenience store manager to recommend that he visit the local morgue in the search for his sibling.
Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the movie — and maybe this is an immutable requirement in the revenge genre — is that the bad guys participate in one of the most incompetent conspiracies ever.
By showing up — on the hero’s timetable, mind you — at various junctures at the worst possible moment for their own survival, or being pathetically obvious liars even in their body language, they blatantly implicate themselves in wrongdoing involving Bianca.
All this to the advantage of a first-time visitor to LA who just traveled nearly 10,000 miles to get there. It’s as if the villains have nothing better to do but be on call 24/7 for the purpose of destroying themselves.
“He’s out-manned, out of his element, and quite possibly out of his mind, and once the dust settles, the only message to speak of was: Don’t mess with the King,” Variety asserted.
In one scene at a party, King texts a drug dealer with another character’s phone to make a bogus buy. The dealer somehow miraculously shows up at the party right away (notwithstanding LA traffic) only to be subjected to a vicious beatdown, and without King verifying his identity or even checking his ID.
The dealer is merely one of a group of scoundrels in Bianca’s orbit who receive harsh punishment.
That two different women would invite a complete stranger who is hardly a stellar conversationalist into their lives is another head-scratcher, at least in what we often refer to as the real word. And only in the movies would a prostitute in a no-tel motel be both beautiful and dependable. As an aside, her car has got to be racking up some serious impound fees.
The whereabouts of a character named Armand and the all-important memory card are also loose ends. And somehow the final action sequence (where all the principals conveniently assemble in one location) starts out at nighttime and seemingly within minutes continues in broad daylight.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a generally predictable but brisk escapist action thriller, Message from the King starring Chadwick Boseman just might be entertaining enough to save to your Netflix subscription “My List.”
[Featured Image by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Images]