The King

Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal and William Hurt
Tartan DVD
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 25 September 2006

Following his discharge from the U.S. navy a very troubled Elvis Valderez goes looking for the father that he has never met. Rather than greeting him with open arms Pastor Sandow rejects him out of hand stetting off a string of events which lead to inevitable tragedy...

The King was directed by James Marsh and co-scripted by Milo Addica and won the American Independents Award, for the director at the Philadelphia Film Festival. Anyone who has seen either Birth or Monster's Ball, by Addica, will know that they're in for a slice of hard hitting controversy - here is a writer who likes to write about the darker side of life.

This is not the film that you think you're going to see. Given the basic set-up the audience will be expecting a film about a corrupt Pastor rejecting his sensitive, and hard done by, illegitimate son. Oh no, this is a film about evil and revenge, with lots of twists in the tale to keep you guessing. With hindsight, at the close of the film we see that rather than being a victim of circumstances Elvis arrives in town with a very specific agenda.

The casting of the film goes a long way to putting you off the track, Gael Garcia Bernal, who had previously been in The Motorcycle Diaries, has a wide-eyed innocence which makes you rout for him right from the start. Ok, so there is one oddity in that he appears to be seducing sixteen year old Malerie Sandow (Pell James) in the full knowledge that they share the same father, but hey, maybe it's a story of star-crossed lovers, whose love was never meant to be - but then why is he having sex with her.

William Hurt, as Pastor Sandow, also succeeds in laying down a few false trails of his own. He looks less like a man of god and more like someone who would beat you to a pulp with a pool cue. So, by misdirection, your sympathies are already skewed in the wrong direction.

Ultimately, the film poses the question about whether the sins of the father are visited on the son, as a trail of physical and psychological destruction are brought about by the arrival of Elvis.

If I seem to be a little vague about some of the plot points, its because this film cries to be seen, without too much explanation, so as not to spoil the headlong rush into evil and your realisation that you really had no idea what was really going on.

The disc comes with a very generous set of extras, including a full length commentary from the director and producer; three long deleted scenes; rehearsal footage (10 mins); an interview with the director (17 mins); an interview with the writer (16 mins); and the original theatrical trailer. The film is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio, with a choice of stereo, 5.1 or DTS audio. The print is pristine.

This is another good, strong independent film which doesn't shy away from looking at some of the more unpleasant aspects of life.

Charles Packer

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