All the King's Men (12A)

Film image

The ViewLondon Review

StarStarNo StarNo StarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner25/10/2006

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 127 mins

Penn is terrific and the production values are impressive, but All the King's Men gets lost in a poorly-structured, overly complicated plot that fails to engage.

What's it all about?
Based on the novel by Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men is essentially a remake of the multiple Oscar winning 1949 film, although you wouldn't know it from the press notes. Sean Penn stars as Willie Stark, a fictionalised politician based on controversial Louisiana Governor Huey Long.

Stark is an idealistic salesman, who runs for governor with the catchy slogan, Nail 'em up!, referring to the crooked politicians standing in the way of social reforms. However, once elected, Stark discovers that in politics you sometimes have to do harm to do good and his increasingly power-crazed administration is soon engulfed in scandal.

The Good
Written and directed by Steven Zaillian, the film looks stunning, with impressive set design and glossy photography, even if there's very little in the way of actual colour.

Penn is terrific as Stark, perfectly capturing his man of the people appeal. His rise to power in the first 30 minutes is exhilarating to watch, particularly during an impressively edited speechmaking sequence.

The Bad
However, the film then goes rapidly downhill thanks to a poorly structured, overly complicated and frequently dull plot that zips about all over the place, wasting a top notch supporting cast (including Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Hopkins) in the process.

Patricia Clarkson and James Gandolfini have better luck with a couple of good scenes each, but the decision to tell the story through the eyes of Jude Law's character (a journalist who becomes Stark's right-hand man) saddles the film with acres of tedious voiceover in Law's dodgy Southern accent and pushes Penn offscreen for large stretches of time.

Worth seeing?
All the King's Men was clearly envisioned as an Oscar-baiting epic with modern day relevance, but it is hugely disappointing, thanks to a badly structured script and poor characterisation. Rent the original instead.

Film Trailer

All the King's Men (12A)
Be the first to review All the King's Men...
01 Shaun the Sheep Movie (tbc)

Shaun the Sheep

02 The Minions Movie (tbc)

Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock

03 The Interview (tbc)

Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, James Franco

04 Black Sea (15)

Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Tobias Menzies

05 Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (PG)

Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Dan Stev...

Content updated: 21/12/2014 12:47

Latest Film Reviews

Film of the Week

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (12A)

Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves come to the end of their journey in the third and final part of Peter Jackson's epic adaptation of Tolkien's novel.

UK Box Office Top 5 Films