Message from the King first debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last year and I eagerly awaited the chance to see it as Chadwick Boseman‘s star is obviously on the rise. With features like 42 and Get On Up already under his belt- not to mention upcoming projects Black Panther and Marshall- it would appear that he’s just beginning to scratch the surface in Hollywood.
MFTK was recently released at Netflix and no matter where you stand in the debate between streaming services vs. the movie industry on the whole- you have to admit that Netflix has been making boss power moves recently.
In this revenge thriller, Chadwick Boseman stars as the mysterious Jacob King, a South African national who travels to Los Angeles to find his estranged sister who has seemingly disappeared. During his search he uncovers a dangerous collective who his sister has become entangled with. As King unravels the truth he sets out to exact justice the only way he knows how- through ingenuity and sheer strength.
I can admit that I went into this film fairly blind. I never even watched the trailer or read a single review before I dove in. This was obviously helpful as it allowed me to remain subjective in my review. The truth of the matter is that MFTK has a somewhat un-original storyline, however, it features incredibly compelling performances and tackles some heavy subject matter that must be addressed and resolved in our society.
First things first: King is a man on a mission. This much is apparent from the very beginning of the film. Rather than jam the first moments of the story with exposition, little tidbits of information are gradually doled out to the viewer.
For instance, it’s not immediately clear what King does for a living or how he and his sister Bianca (Sibongile Mlambo) have come to be estranged in the first place. As he traces clues to her whereabouts he isn’t shy about using brute force to find the answers he’s looking for. In that way, I was reminded of Denzel Washington’s character in Man on Fire– neither behaves as if he has anything to lose and that’s what makes them both so dangerous.
To his credit, Boseman does a terrific job of portraying someone who is experiencing so many different emotions: angst, frustration, and fury are all easily identifiable on his face. The film rests on his shoulders and he is a solid performer who more than delivers in this role.
The supporting cast is also wildly talented. Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge) stars as Kelly, a struggling single mother who befriends King and happens to live in the motel he finds himself crashing at. Their unlikely relationship with one another is complex, yet still manages to be profound. I thought the scenes between the two of them were impactful and Palmer takes the little screen time she has and really makes something of it.
Alfred Molina (The Da Vinci Code) and Luke Evans (The Girl on the Train) are also worth mentioning as their characters are real boy scouts. Molina portrays Preston, a Hollywood executive who has questionable living arrangements with male minors and Evans plays Wentworth, a dentist to the stars who happens to have a seedy side hustle. They serve as classic examples of wealthy people who take advantage of the poor and marginalized and profit from their painful misfortunes. When he discovers that they are responsible for his sister’s disappearance, King makes sure neither gets away with what they’ve done.
I would be remiss if I didn’t note that MFTK features extremely violent scenes and grisly imagery matched only by the sordid secrets and bleak reality of life in the slums of L.A. There is also brief nudity and harsh language, both of which are unsurprising in a picture like this one.
Overall, I think it’s a film that will provide some entertainment and maybe expose common evils that are happening in cities all around the world. This isn’t a movie that left me feeling very hopeful- uneasy and discouraged are far more suitable words.
Message from the King is directed by Fabrice du Welz (Alleluia) and written by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell (Unknown). It stars Chadwick Boseman, Luke Evans, Teresa Palmer, Tom Felton, Dale Dickey, Chris Mulkey, Natalie Martinez, Sibongile Mlambo and Alfred Molina. It’s currently streaming on Netflix!
What is your favorite crime or revenge thriller? Tell me all about it in the comments below!