All the King’s Men (2006)
All the King’s Men (2006)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 8 min.

Release Date: September 22nd, 2006 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Steven Zaillian Actors: Sean Penn, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Patricia Clarkson, James Gandolfini, Jackie Earle Haley, Talia Balsam, Kevin Dunn, Tom McCarthy

 


 

W

hy is it that studios continue to remake critically acclaimed, classic films? Could this latest venture have been better off if it were a shot-by-shot remake, like 1998’s appallingly bad “Psycho”? It’s baffling to see a redone version of a film that, though certainly not flawless, became a celebrated work when it was originally released some 57 years prior (going so far as to win Best Picture and Best Actor Academy Awards). Not too long ago, “The Manchurian Candidate” was similarly remade, and it too was a catastrophe. In that instance, it was not only a classic, but also regularly regarded as one of the very best American films of all time (notably landing on the American Film Institute’s top-100 list in 1998). Here, though the source material is the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren (loosely based on the life of Louisiana senator Huey Long), it seems like a strange choice for sociopolitical commentary in 2006.

Willie Stark (Sean Penn), the common man’s best choice for state representation, rises from a rural county seat all the way to governor. But along the way, he’s unable to avoid the very corruption that he set out to combat. Jack Burden (Jude Law), a newspaper reporter and Willie’s right-hand man, harbors suspicions but obeys orders; Judge Irwin (Anthony Hopkins), Stark’s honorable godfather, also observes the marked transition from honest delegate to manipulative roughneck; Anne Stanton (Kate Winslet) is the cozened love interest; and Tiny Duffy (James Gandolfini) is the man pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

Though writer/director Steven Zaillian (“Searching for Bobby Fischer”) intended to more accurately adapt the book, his efforts are largely wasted on contemporary audiences, even if the story of political venality is admittedly timeless. A forced performance and unnatural accent by Sean Penn; a miscast, static, and irredeemable Jude Law; and an ensemble of forgettable supporting players in terribly generic roles – including Mark Ruffalo, Patricia Clarkson, and Jackie Earle Haley – certainly don’t translate this unoriginal notion into modernized entertainment. Even the advancements in cinematography, editing, and related technologies can’t help a lifeless script with uninspired direction.

Perhaps most grating of all are Penn’s long speeches, desperately attempting to be authoritative or emotional, but ending up sounding laughably overdone, augmented by flamboyant arm-flailing and spittle-flying whines. Occasionally, the dialogue exudes intelligence, but it’s delivered with a perpetual drabness and spiritlessness by a cast that seems genuinely bored in their involvement. Plus, as it runs over two hours long, the pacing becomes disastrous, plodding painfully slowly at certain points, or confusingly skipping over blocks of time at others.

To its credit, the picture does boast a high production value, with fitting camerawork lending to moody sets and dark, shrouded environments that match the conflicted personas. The score is also brilliant, though it’s regularly misplaced; thunderous brass and stirring violin riffs only remind audiences that the events onscreen don’t live up to the dramatic music. And what was before a rather straightforward corruption piece is now muddied with flashbacks and dream sequences that deaden the political messages and cautionary tales – and all appreciation for this brand of antihero-riddled tragedies.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10