All The King’s Men: More Faithful Version Equals Tepid Remake!

All The King's Men - One-sheetSteven Zallian's "All The King's Men" recounts the rise and fall of Louisiana politician Willie Stark [not-so-loosely based on notorious Louisiana politician, Huey Long]. More faithfully adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren than the original 1949 film, it still comes off as a tepid remake. Part of the problem is that it feels like a mash-up of two vastly different films…



Low-level politician Willie Stark [Sean Penn] – a county treasurer in a small county – rises to become governor of Louisiana by running as the man who fought a corrupt system and lost, resulting in the deaths of three schoolchildren in a fire in a badly built school. He had contested the awarding of the contract to a certain contractor, but was ignored – until the fire.

Between his hammering home the corruption of the current administration, playing on his being a "hick" – just like the majority of Louisiana voters – and promising to build roads, schools and hospitals, Stark gets himself elected. A rare, objective reporter, Jack Burden [Jude Law], is enlisted to work with Stark's administration – along with a PR flack [Patricia Clarkson] and one of the former administration's thugs [James Gandolfini].

The problem is that power corrupts, and – although he fulfills his campaign promises – Stark falls prey to the various temptations that come to a man in power. While he uses suspicious means to fulfill his promises, he espouses a philosophy that "all good comes from bad."

All The King's Men - Law & Penn

With its washed out palette, "All The King's Men" captures the gritty, grimy feel of a Louisiana that could be in the middle of the thirties as easily as the fifties. It's easy to believe that this area's people are beaten down and on the verge of giving up even thinking of the possibility of better days.

The biggest problem is that Sean Penn and the rest of the cast are in two different movies. Penn seems to be playing Shakespeare, while everyone else seems to be part of downer version of a Frank Capra film. The contrast between the two might provide what life there is to the film, but Penn is so over the top that we can see him acting and it pulls us right out of the film.

Another problem is that – with the exception of Sir Anthony Hopkins and one or two other minor supporting actors – the rest of the cast is briefly sketched and remains something of a cipher. Only Jude Law and Kate Winslet [as Jack Burden's One True Love] even seem to be trying to rise above the lackluster script.

When one has a cast of this stature, and a source that is as impeccable, it is a pretty good trick to turn out a film that this lukewarm. There aren't many films that make feel like I've had time stolen from my life, but this is certainly one of them. A better bet would be to seek out a copy of the original 1949 film that won three Oscars


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