All The King's Men Reviews

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Super Reviewer
January 6, 2010
I know I might be in the minority, but I loved every minute of this. The acting was terrific and it was a perfect neo-noir story. I liked the idea of seeing the complete corruption of an innately good person and the following of him by journalist Jack Burden.
Super Reviewer
½ December 29, 2009
All of the talent but none of the substance would be a good way to describe this film.
Super Reviewer
November 14, 2008
"Time brings all things to light."

The legacy of a populist Southern politician whose lofty ambitions for the future leave him open to corruption and scandal is detailed as author Robert Penn Warren's thinly veiled portrait of Depression-era Louisiana governor Huey Long comes to the screen -- again -- this time courtesy of director and screenwriter Steven Zaillian. Willie Stark (Sean Penn) is a man of the people, and for the people; at least that's what he tells the people. Propelled into a race for governor by opposing forces looking to split the "hick vote," Stark is convinced by a handler -- as well as by young journalist Jack Burden (Jude Law) -- to not kowtow to the powers that be. His rhetoric grows fiery, and he makes his way into office on a not-so-solid foundation of social-service promises. When idealism gives way to the harsh realities of the time, however, the fast-talking politico is quick to discover just how far one can fall when ambition and power lead to a betrayal of one's original motivations. Kate Winslet, Patricia Clarkson, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Hopkins round out an all-star cast in this second version of Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 novel; the first won a parade of Oscars after its release in 1949.

While this movie did contain a startling amount bad film clichés, including a "dark man in the shadows" bit, I think that the actors were about the only thing that made this film watchable. Penn was a bit over the top as Willie Stark, but it felt somewhat fitting, especially because he went more over the top as the character's mania increased. Jude Law, while exceedingly pretty, fit the character of the struggling debutante fairly well. Patricia Clarkson as Saide Burke far outshone the rest of the cast, and was really the only one that pulled off convincingly a Louisiana accent. Mark Ruffalo was underused and far out shown his traditional romantic comedy characters.

There were parts of the movie that were distracting to the plot. The movie was overly melodramatic along with most of the music, which was at times distracting. James Gandolfini acted well but his accent was terrible. Kate Winslet was the least convincing of all cast members and often looked out of place. Worst of all, perhaps, is that the "morals" of the movie were so obvious and yet with the heaviness of the movie you felt empty for not achieving some deeper level of understanding.
Super Reviewer
½ July 7, 2007
With an all star cast led by Sean Penn (who yet again pulls off a great performance), this film requires your full undivided attention. Based on the 1946 novel by Robert Penn Warren this film is a political journey to the top and everything that is met along the way.
Super Reviewer
½ April 27, 2007
Directed by: Steven Zaillian.
Starring: Sean Penn, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, James Gandolfini, Patricia Clarkson.

One of the biggest surprises in a film I have ever seen, even though I read the bad reviews, I thought to myself...'it has an A-list cast, intriguing premise and is written by Steven Zaillian, who in the past has written Schindler's List and The Interpreter'....what could go wrong?

The film is based on Robert Penn Warren's novel, people see it as a remake because a film loosely based on the novel was made 60 years isn't. The film has all the qualities to be excellent....and falls very far short. The production values are high, the cinematography is amazing and the sets look authentic....but the film is extremely dull. Even with an intriguing premise, Steven Zaillian manages to badly string scenes together, throwing the pacing right off. The film goes for drama and thriller, yet it is over-dramatic and lacks in any thrills. The score is completely out of place, its like it realises that the scene is dull so it goes all over-dramatic to try and get a raise out of the audience. The cast is large and full of very talented people, yet no one really shines. I can't judge whether Sean Penn was badly cast or not, I never followed Wille Starks or knew what he was like, but his acting is over the top and along with the script, everything he says to the community is unconvincing and his 'meanings' are far from intelligent. Jude Law I think could have been great if he had the right script, but then again his accent wasn't the best, with his english accent sneaking its way through all the time.

Overall the film was a complete letdown, it had all the ingredients to make a great film and yet it came out dull and unconvincing. Not recommended.
Super Reviewer
½ March 5, 2007
This movie looked so promising when it was first announced. But a few delays and rewrite later, this is what we're left with.
Super Reviewer
½ December 27, 2006
Forget what the critics say, this is a great film. An excellent and teriffic movie from it's great begining to it's shocking conclusion. Provocative and outstanding. Powerful, riveting and brilliant. This is truly outstanding. Steven Zaillian has directed a major political achievement with a cast that shines with dramatic intelligence. Sean Penn gives an magnificent powerhouse performance. Jude Law is fantastic. He carries the story and the characters in his nariration. Anthony Hopkins is brilliant.
Super Reviewer
November 18, 2006
this movie is a perfect reflex of how politic and politicians are managed these days, so real and so true that it impress you a lot. Maybe the movie is quite slow at the beginning, but the last 30 minutes of the movie are quite interesting, maybe the best part of the film. the cast is excellent with first class actors like Sir Anthony Hopkins, James Gandolfini and Sean Penn that makes an amazing performance.
Super Reviewer
September 19, 2006
It's Oscar time! Sean Penn is a shoe-in for the Best Actor category and will be the one to beat this season. Of course, the season is just started and there are many other performances to see and expect. But Penn gives a tour-de-force turn as Louisiana governor Willie Stark.

Starks charisma and political fortitude is exuded seamlessly by Penn's adeptness to portray him as a humas with slightly superhuman powers of persuasion. He is an everyman who rallies the people of the small southern state and commands the voting public to give him a landslide victory.

Through all of this, though, there are powers greater than Stark who are (and have been) plotting and arranging a way to overthrow everything Stark has worked for while reaping the benefits.

The cinematography is classic. Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Patricia Clarkson and Anthony Hopkins round-out this top-notch ensemble cast to deliver a pitch-perfect motion picture that has all the elements to make it a winner: a smart script, stellar acting, impeccable directing and a cast and crew that is to die for. Definitely check this one out.

NOTE: The pace of this film may be deemed rather slow and streched-out, but it is crucial in order to let the plot develop and the character arc to unfold. It pays-off in the end.
Super Reviewer
½ September 23, 2010
A powerful drama that is every bit as relevant today as it was when the original was made in 1949. Featuring an all-star cast that includes Sean Penn as the riveting populist politician, Willie Stark; Jude Law as Jack Burden, Stark's right-hand man and journalist who serves as the narrator; Kate Winslet, as Jack's childhood friend; Mark Ruffalo, James Gandolfini, Anthony Hopkins, Patricia Clarkson, and Kathy Baker, the film draws one in and asks the viewer to decide the age-old question, "Do the ends justify the means?" Steve Zaillian, who wrote and directed, has crafted a solid piece of cinema that allows the viewer to see how such an outspoken critic of the money men, and the influence their riches could purchase, would capture the hearts of the people and threaten the ruling class. Shot on location around the various parishes of Louisiana, one can almost feel the heat and humidity, and sense the quiet desperation of the poor, looking for a savior who would free them from the bonds of their poverty. Adapted from the Robert Penn Warren book of the same name, and based on the life, and death, of 1930s politician, Huey P. Long, the film faithfully recreates a time and place that hauntingly seems relevant to today's landscape. This one's a keeper.
Super Reviewer
½ September 19, 2007
[font=Century Gothic]I remember seeing the original "All the King's Men" some years ago but cannot recall anything specifically about it. But at least it could not have been as uninspired as this remake.[/font]
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[font=Century Gothic]"All the King's Men" is ostensibly about Willie Stark(Sean Penn), a local politician in rural Louisiana, who gains statewide recognition after blowing the whistle on government corruption. After which, he is groomed for the governor's mansion. The movie is narrated by Jack Burden(Jude Law), a crusading reporter turned governor's aide, but instead of talking about Stark, he talks about his own less interesting life and past which resembles a lesser knockoff of "The Great Gatsby." This makes it impossible to know if Stark is principled or corrupt at the beginning of his political career(Obviously, campaign speeches should never be taken at face value.), thus watering down any possible tragedy. But the climax is spelled out in big, bold letters.[/font]
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[font=Century Gothic]"All the King's Men" has a great cast but wastes it badly. Jude Law is a pretty face who becomes less intriguing with each movie he makes. No matter how great an actor Sean Penn is, James Gandolfini(a supporting part) might have been a better choice for the lead. And an overbearing musical score only hurts the movie.[/font]
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ December 15, 2011
"All the Queen's Men". Oh wait, this is about the politician Sean Penn played "before" Harvey Milk. Actually, I think that I'd be more accurate in comparing this to "I Am Sam", because the way Penn's flailing around, you'd think he was going "full retard" all over again. Still, I wouldn't exactly say that he was overacting, like a lot of people say, because, man, I haven't seen enough of him and quite frankly, it's hard to "get" enough of him, because he is one powerhouse of an acting talent in just about everything he graces with his presence, including this film, in which he plays this frantic, idealist manipulator of a corrupt politician perfectly without an ounce of overacting, in my opinion. Of course, Mr. Penn plays this cheesy-sleazy a little too faithfully, to the point of being pretty annoying at points; and keep in mind that I just got done watching Michael Bay's "Transformers Trilogy", so Sean, if you're crazy enough to hear me in the future from 2006, cool it, Curly, or at least take some Ritalin there, Sam. Still, bug me all you want, it's hard to hate Sean Penn, just like it's hard to hate this adaptation of a highly acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning political-drama novel that's being written for the screen and directed by the great Steven Zaillian, and features such acting greats as, well, Sean Penn, as well as Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, James Gandolfini and Patricia Clarkson, which is why I'm sure absolutely no self-respecting critic in his or her right mind could hate this wannabe-I mean obvious Oscar contender... right? Well, lucky for me, this is one of those occasions where most of the critics were wrong about an Oscar bait film (Yeah, big shocker), because I actually did like this, which isn't to say that it isn't kept from being a good as it could have been, due to quite a deal of flaws, some of which I'm gonna have to agree with the majority of critics on.

As you would imagine from all of the reviews, this film didn't meet the Oscar criteria, but not for lack of trying, because like many other good chunks of Oscar bait before and after it, this film gets to be rather dull at points, due to dull tones and a deal of overdrawn sequences. Of course, then again, I don't remember one of the usual culprits of the slowness in an Oscar film being repetition, and yet, here it is; and it's not like their just trying to fill out time, because the film feels rather rushed in some places, particularly development. It's underdeveloped, slow and repetitious; and yet, what really keeps this film from being genuinely good, let alone great, is its simplest misstep: a lack of depth. As a screenwriter, Steven Zaillian is a should-be legend, but the problem with him is that he's so good that he always writes over the executors' heads, including - nay - especially his own. I'm personally unfamiliar with the source material behind this project, but its quality is palpable through its concept alone, and might have been made even more so by Zaillian's snappy, riveting re-imagining - repetitious though, it may be -, but when it comes down to bringing his own vision to life, Zaillian drops the ball as a director, not being able to fully capture the depth and intrigue of the source material until the final act and the subsequent ending, which are great - in spite of some inconsistent theme focus -, but come in much too late to fully redeem this potentially great success that may very well have been ameliorated by Zaillian's always graceful touch as writer. Still, although Zaillian is too good of a writer to catch up with, that's just it; he's too good of a writer. Although he makes one too many missteps for this film to fully succeed, it doesn't fully fail, like others say, not just because of the snap in Zaillian's writing, but because of the other quality aspects that are also too good for this film.

The hook to this film is an absolute knockout, which of course makes it that much harder to accept the later and deep drop in quality, but there's still plenty of great things from that awesome hook to stays with the film... except the great score for some reason. James Horner and his composing team must have kept accidentally leaving the film running while they were on breaks, because the score just goes in and out; but cinematographer Paweł Edelman, on the other hand, showed up for work and stayed there, keeping the film consistently handsome and gritty, subtley, but noticably growing darker and darker with the film; and if there's any ounce of emotional resonance to be found in this film, then it's delivered by the gorgeous visual style. However, Mr. Edelman isn't the only person that establishes what resonance there is in this film by giving an underappreciated performance, because the stars in this all-star cast are stars for a reason. Even Jackie Earle Haley conquers the spotlight whenever it's on him with his presence; and yes, I'm saying "even" because Haley plays a not-so-huge role in this film, not because he isn't always great; because having an awesome, hardly recognizable presence is Jack Haley's thing. Of course, he's not the only one who grabs your attention, because virtually everyone in this film pulls you back in for every moment you fall out with their presence that boasts such humanity that you forget that these are all fictional characters in a fictional story; and yet, there are still two particular standouts, and those would be the leads. Jude Law is subtle, slick and charismatic as Jack Burden, getting you investested in him as a man going through his own struggles, as well as an avatar for the audience. Just as, if not more outstanding is, of course, Sean Penn, who I will admit isn't delivering one of his best performances, but I'm going to disagree with the critics when they say that that's actually saying something, because Penn is delivering yet another powerful, fascinating performances, and whether it's because he's nailing that hick Southern accent and charm, or portraying the steadily developing corruption of the Willie Stark in a slick, compelling fashion, you're drawn to him, maybe never to where he fully redeems the film, but enough for you to be wondering just what's going to happen next.

In the end, it takes blows from the repetition and overlong sequences that exacerbate a dull tone, but is left as unfulfilling as it is by the lack of depth Zaillian takes as director; but as writer, Zaillian brings snap and life to this classic tale, picking up the film that is saved by the handsome visual style, and ultimately raised above average by each and every strong, deeply human performance, particularly Jude Law and Sean Penn, both of whom deliver the powerful portrayals of human corruption that ultimately leave Steven Zaillian's take on "All the King's Men" to stand as a not terribly effective, but still generally interesting analysis on the morality of men.

2.5/5 - Fair
Super Reviewer
July 19, 2010
In 1992, critics savaged Hoffa (Danny DeVito's ambitious bio-pic of the infamous teamster leader) as being "over directed," a term never fully understood by this particular critic. With its heavy-handed script, terribly miscast stars, and over-powering score, All the King's Men gave this once ambiguous criticism sudden meaning. As David Lean made clear with The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia-two films brilliantly balancing quality writing, acting, and directing at a grand length-great epics are born, not made. Notice the word "quality." All the King's Men wants so bad to be an epic that it forsakes this for quantity.

In this R-rated remake of Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, an honest everyman (Penn) rises through the rank and file of Louisiana politics only to become undone by corruption once he reaches the top, all under the watch of an eagle-eye reporter (Law).

From casting big-name talent over the best possible actor for the role to director Steven Zallian's dubious, grand-scale, melodramatic alterations to the hallowed text, every aspect of All the King's Men proves to be a lesson in the dangers of over-indulgence. Penn's inspired performance notwithstanding, everybody else simply showed up to cash a generous paycheck, their native-born accents intact. Apparently, the producers were so taken with Leslie Howard's weak-kneed Englishman-in-Dixie Gone with the Wind performance that they hired Law to pull off the same...and he does. Worst of all, Zallian accuses the audience of stupidity. What else would explain the use of such blatant visuals (the Louisiana crest filling with blood at the end) to hammer home Warren's moral?

Bottom line: All the king's horseshit.
Super Reviewer
½ August 22, 2007
I gave an extra half for acting...
Super Reviewer
½ December 24, 2008
Now, as I begin my reiew I must say, what could be the cause of lack of editing? the cause for not making the film picture perfect? It comes as no suprise that when it comes to crappy editing, you get an overly, overbearing melo-drama, correct? Well, in most cases I would agree with you. In the case of 'All the King's Men', I saddeningly cannot agree.

I can't say that it being long, and drawn out wasn't a good thing, but it wasn't hardly bad enough to draw me away from the screen. How couldn't it though, you ask? It was really dull, and had loose plot points. Surely it was hard to follow? Well, if I was to give you a simple answer, I would first have to state two simplifies answers instead

Sean Penn. The edning.

Now really, you say? His performance was that magnifying? Penn was really so good, that such a long, and dull bore could be enjoyed besides that? As, I dislike the sh*tty editng, and the overly empathetic direction, it was a suprise to see Penn still shining bright on screen as everything else starts to crumble beneath, and beside him.

I liked law, but kind of felt, it wasn't such a perfect fit. I kind of think his Alfie type roles might be a better suit for him. Winslet was alright, but if we are talking sexiness, and better acting, I have to say Patrica Clarkson was 100% better. That is just being honest. Winslet just seemed so, unhappy to be in the film, kind of as if she wished it to end, quicker than most did.

Gandolfini wasn't as strong in his role as he normally, but he is rather riviting sometimes.(Pelham, he was good, but just didn't have his normal flair).

Now all this was just okay. it was a rather average, just your normal, standard, one or two watdch flick(Depending on what type of films you actually like). Yet, once it hit the climatic emding, that kind of changed.

Maybe, it was more visually stunning, then it was dialouge, or just happenstance, but whatever it was that was so enthralling, and beautiful(yes, beautiful) about the ending, it was what put the cherry on top of Penn's performance, making 'All the King's Men' one great story.

"One deeply affecting, if some what fascinating charcter study of the political stance and power, and it's effect on one ordinary man's mind, and it's vulnerability, with a visually spellbinding ending that would be considered one of the most beautifully tradgic endings to date!"

Now, maybe i was more or less swayed by one powerful man's performance, but either way i put it, 'All the King's men', really stars one of 'Hollywood's top leading men'
Super Reviewer
½ October 1, 2006
Part of the reason for the brutally harsh reactions to this film is the fact that you can see the great picture buried inside of it. With a cast like this, anything but a staggering masterpiece would be ruthlessly criticized. Steven Zaillian's execution of the plot is loose and quick, with a haphazard narrative thread and forceful flashbacks. Having said that, the themes of the material are always prevalent, and there are plenty of scenes that are extremely powerful and effective. This is an exquisitely produced movie, with stunning cinematography and art direction. It also features an array of fantastic performances, particularly from Jude Law and Sean Penn. OVERacting is not automatically BAD acting, and I think Penn's work here is unfairly picked apart. He makes some miscalculations and goes for a large performance, both physically and vocally. But he turns in an expertly drawn character portrait that is consistently intriguing to watch. Despite its flaws, I find this film utterly absorbing. With its seductive aesthetic appeal and top-notch acting, it is a picture that I admire in a lot of ways. I am a big fan of the original 1949 film, but this is a completely different adaptation of the source material that takes a new tonal approach.
Super Reviewer
May 27, 2010
Sean Penn's performance was over-the-top, with Broderick Crawford from the original best picture winner giving the better one. But no one can doubt Penn's absolute energy as an actor and as a presence in the screen. What I severely did not like about this remake was the suddenness of Willie Stark's(Sean Penn) transformation from a clean-cut do-gooder to a corrupt politician. The film itself, although having an impressive photography, fails to capture the original's change of tones, as it relied on the gloomy atmosphere all too soon. I liked the way how director Steve Zaillian extended and deepened the Jack Burden character, and seeing all of it through his eyes, but the preaching narrations were too much. If there is one thing that has improved from the original, it is the (SPOILERS) scene of Willie Stark's assassination. Along with the beautiful orchestration of the said scene, again, there's no actor that can portray the anguish of physical pain and the "what has become of me?" facial expression quite like Sean Penn.
Super Reviewer
May 1, 2010
Slow moving, boring storyline and bouncing around from one plot to another without going into too much detail. Penn held this movie together with his powerful acting, but I thought this movie was going to be better than it was. Jude Law blended into the background and even Anthony Hopkins was wasted in this. Kate Winslet was decent but the story was predictable and had so many political cliches in it that it dragged the movie down. This was an average film at best, but Penn did okay in it.
Super Reviewer
June 26, 2008
My fave actor of all time sean penn was brilliant in this and hadnt it been for him i would never have watched this boring movie
Super Reviewer
December 25, 2007
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