I have recently begun appreciating the extended works of one Sean Penn, despite only rarely seeing movies with him in them for whatever reason (coincidence). So I’ve seen Mystic River, Carlito’s Way, and now this odd film. All the King’s Men is a novel based on the life of Huey Long, a pseudo-socialist dictatorial Governor of Louisiana (oh yes, there will be terrible southern accents) who was assassinated prior to challenging for the presidency. Short of FDR one of the most interesting American political leaders of the past century. The dude who shot him was immediately annihilated by Long’s “gunmen” Gestapo police force. Per the trustworthy Wikipedia: “Long's bodyguards returned fire, hitting Weiss 62 times and killing him instantly.”
I’ve always been a fan of silly stories like that, hence my fascination with Rasputin and his inability to die. Anywho, this film stars Sean Penn, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Mark Ruffalo, James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Patricia Clarkson, and Jackie Earle Haley; but despite the incredible cast was critically panned and poorly received. This film is actually a remake of 1949’s best picture of the same name so evidently was placed under a microscope.
That said it is a bit hard to defend the film, most of the performances are over the top, Jude Law’s character is basically a means to move the plot forward, and Sean Penn turns into a power hungry “corrupt” government figure in about 5 minutes. Still I don’t think it is entirely without merit, the cinematography is outstanding, the score is fantastic, and the acting while over the top is still entertaining.
Every 20 or so minutes there’s an interlude where Sean Penn stands on a soapbox and yells to an audience, “every man a king” speeches and lambasting all of his opposition. He has a pretty amusing sounding southern drawl which I honestly have no idea as to the accuracy of. Jude Law is the center of the plot otherwise, various blabbing about his irrelevant past and how he must serve Huey Long’s magnificent corruption for no apparent reason. But then the weakest part of the film surfaces.
Jude Law has several overly emotional scenes that are really laughably bad; I don’t really care about the character since the film gives you no reason to. Evidently every tragic moment in his past must be emphasized heavily so he can finally decide to not help out Huey’s reign of terror; unfortunately this goes for naught and impeachment fails. Conveniently he’s then assassinated 5 seconds later and the single bodyguard (Jackie Earle Haley) in this case kills the assassin. Jackie’s character is awesome throughout as the only word he ever says is “bastard” while shooting or driving (Suga boy is his name), but unfortunately he fails to redeem the film by hilariously saying this in the end sequence and suddenly goes mute. Bastard is my favorite word and its omission is absolutely grievous and uncalled for, what a disaster.