Friday, March 11, 2011

Film Review with Robert Mann - The King Maker

The King Maker (DVD review) NO STARS

Made back in 2005, released in the states in 2007 and only now receiving its UK (straight to DVD) release, The King Maker is a Thai film that is very hard to recognise as being made in Thailand, despite boasting a cast and crew full of people with the kind of weird sounding and sometimes hard to pronounce names that you might expect people to have in the country – for instance the director is called Lek Kitiparaporn. While this film has been made in Thailand, it is somewhat inexplicably presented entirely in English and, while native roles seemed to have been cast to native actors, the casting of the Portuguese actors leaves a lot to be desired, few (if any) of them actually seeming to be Portuguese and the two leads in fact being British, Gary Stretch and John Rhys-Davies.

While Stretch is the leading man here, Rhys-Davies is the closest thing this film has to a star, Stretch’s most prominent roles amounting to little more than one scene appearances in films like Alexander and World Trade Center. And, with this film being only the second film by director Lek Kitiparaporn – his first being made all the way back in 1982 – the credentials behind the camera actually manage to be even worse than those of the leading man. Asking if The King Maker is a good film would be a stupid question – it most definitely isn’t – but how bad is it?

In 1547 Fernando De Gama (Gary Stretch), a young “Soldier of Fortune” from Portugal, set sail for the Orient in a bid to find the man that murdered his father and, with luck, like many of his fellow countrymen, to make his fortune. A vicious storm in the Indian Ocean almost ended his plans when the ship he was on sank. The sole survivor, he was washed up on a tropical beach only to be captured by Arab slavers and taken to Ayutthaya in the kingdom of Siam where he was offered for sale as a slave. He is rescued from slavery when a beautiful young woman Maria (Cindy Burbridge), also from Portugal, living in Ayutthaya with her father Phillippe (John Rhys-Davies), buys him from the Arabs and restores his freedom. Not surprisingly he falls for Maria and Maria him, much to the chagrin of Phillippe. 

As an experienced soldier his services are soon in demand when the King of Siam (Nirut Sirichanya) declares war on a Northern renegade pretender and all of the Portuguese colony are press-ganged into the service of the King but Fernando soon stumbles onto a plot to overthrow the king, a plot that Queen Sudachan (Yoe Hassadeevichit) seems to be right at the centre of...

Apparently The King Maker is “based on a true story” – in Siam in 1547, the Queen killed her husband and son to install her lover as the new King (that’s probably a spoiler but don’t worry, by telling you, I’m sparing you the one and a half hours of your life that would be wasted by watching this) – but it is highly unlikely that you will care as, if you see it, you will more than likely be distracted by the fact that the writing here is abysmal in every way imaginable and that the rest of the film follows in suit. The screenplay by writer Sean Casey, who has only one other writing credit under his belt – American comedy Welcome 2 Ibiza, a film which couldn’t be much more different from this one if it tried to be – is an example of screenwriting at is very worst, displaying no talent whatsoever on his part and proving frequently cringe-worthy due to how bad it is. 

Terrible plotting ensures that the story is a complete mess and the meandering storyline rushes through all developments with character development being virtually non-existent and what little that passes for it being so weak as to make it impossible to care less about. Additionally, the dialogue is extremely risible and ham-fisted delivery by the cast does nothing to help matters. The acting here is so unanimously awful that it not only makes Channing Tatum look like an Oscar worthy performer by comparison but would likely also ensure that, were this film in the running for the worst acting gongs at the Razzies, every single cast member would be in contention. Gary Stretch is a very weak leading man and displays absolutely no acting ability that suggests why he is the leading man in a film rather than just appearing in some television soap. 

Several of the actors sound like they belong in a bad television advert rather than in any kind of film and even the usually good John Rhys-Davies doesn’t fare well. Additionally, the accents prove very unconvincing, the actors portraying Portuguese characters generally failing to sound Portuguese with only the Thai actors sounding even remotely believable and then less so due to the fact that they are speaking English, and not very well in some cases. Some of this might work better if the film weren’t in English but in the native language but, alas, this is not the case. 

The film doesn’t even look very good for the most part, often seeming very cheap – by Hollywood standards it is, the production budget being $15 million, but I suspect this amounts to a lot more in Thailand – the few CG effects being very shonky, what we get here being the standard of effects you would expect to find in a TV show or straight to DVD movie than a proper film – this film of being the latter. The cinematography is passable at best, the framing of the shots often being very poor and the framings generally lacking good composition. The set and costume design are sometimes lavish but the way they are shot poorly captures this and some of the costumes could be classed as fashion faux pas. The occasional fight sequence is ably performed and boasts some decent choreography but mostly the battle sequences that are far from epic, being brutal and bloody but lacking any visual style or panache. 

There is lots of needless brutality in the violence, the unnecessary blood and gore, which takes place the action that is thrilling or well executed, being almost sickening at times. All this makes for a film that I was ready to give up on before it reached its halfway point and throw in an overly sentimental and extremely out of place original score by Ian Livingstone and you have a film that could easily be in contention for worst movie ever made. The potential for the film to actually be good is constantly evident but so many potentially great shots are ruined by lacklustre cinematography, so many battle sequences are ruined by a filmmaker who seems to think that all is required it to show a lot of blood and guts, the story fails to hold the attention on any level due to how badly written the screenplay is and every single character fails to engage due to atrocious acting. Simply put, The King Maker is an ordeal to sit through and not even worth the price of renting the DVD. At one point the Queen says “I curse you for all eternity”. That might actually be preferable to sitting through this piece of rubbish.

Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

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