Sean Penn's work here is so mesmerizing, so intense, so guaranteed to put him front and centre when Oscar reads out the nominees, as to almost obscure the multiple failings of the misguided movie around it.
Ungainly and bloated with an unearned sense of self-importance, All the King's Men is nevertheless worth watching for Sean Penn's mesmerizing performance as a corrupt politician who exults in his own dirty ways.
All the King's Men is obviously a movie that has been so rejiggered and downsized, in length and intelligence, that its guiding principles have been sacrificed to the marketplace -- a fate not unlike that of its blustery antihero.
An intricate, subtly rewarding narrative whose uncompromising nature and undeniable moral seriousness make it far from business as usual, even in the ever-decreasing world of quality Hollywood filmmaking.
All the King's Men hasn't been directed so much as over-directed, although the result, when you make an effort to filter out all the film school pyrotechnics, is an honorable run at Robert Penn Warren's classic novel.
Watching scene after scene linger and expire in this haplessly faithful version of the 1946 Robert Penn Warren novel, it's impossible to tell what compelled adapter-director Steven Zaillian to address the material in the first place.
Those familiar with the novel will undoubtedly agree that reading it is a more satisfying experience than watching this disappointing film. One expects more -- much more, in fact -- with cast of this caliber.
One suspects, however, that Zaillian and a vast team of producers and executive producers that includes political consultant and pundit James Carville believe they are making a serious commentary on American politics. It comes closer to kitsch.