The King

Critics Consensus

This disturbing film about the past coming back demanding its due evokes classical tragedy, but is ultimately too heavy-handed.



Total Count: 78


Audience Score

User Ratings: 39,815
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The King Photos

Movie Info

A young man exacts a thorough revenge against the father who abandoned him in this independent drama. Elvis (Gael García Bernal) is a young man in his early twenties who, after finishing a hitch in the Navy, learns that his biological father was Pastor David Sandow (William Hurt), a man of the cloth who has never taken responsibility for siring a child out of wedlock. Elvis travels to Corpus Christi, TX, to confront Sandow about his past; the pastor asks Elvis to let him break the news to his wife and children himself, and assures the young man he wants to stay in contact with him. Elvis, however, prefers to handle matters in his own way. First Elvis sets his sights on Malerie (Pell James), the pastor's teenage daughter, and after winning her trust, takes the girl's virginity. Malerie soon discovers she's pregnant, and after her older brother Paul (Paul Dano) sees Elvis slipping out of the house following a liason with the girl, he confronts the seducer and is stabbed and killed. Elvis manages to cover his tracks cleanly enough that no one is certain Paul is dead. Next, Elvis goes to great lengths to ingratiate himself with Sandow, and despite the objections of his wife (Laura Harring), the pastor eventually invites the man who killed his son and violated his daughter to live under the same roof with his family. The King was the first dramatic feature from director James Marsh, who previously distinguished himself in documentaries. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi


Critic Reviews for The King

All Critics (78) | Top Critics (30)

Audience Reviews for The King

  • Oct 30, 2009
    A great movie spoiled by a lousy ending
    Brody M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 04, 2008
    This movie is a bit f'ed, but I really like it. I saw it years ago and was delighted to find a $3 copy at the op shop recently. Stood up well to a rewatch, particularly as I had forgotten how it ends. Disturbed young man hunts down the father he never met, a devoutly religious man, and becomes romantically involved with his half sister (who had no idea they are related). Turns very dark by the end.
    Nicki M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 24, 2008
    Somehow against all odds The King is dark yet somehow fulfilling. Bernal is terrific in a role where he hides who he really is. His actions seem to come off with no malicious intent despite the obvious destruction they could cause. It makes for an extremely creepy and twisted protagonist. This isn't someone who lurks in the shadows or gives you the evil eye from a distance, no twiddling of mustaches either. The revenge aspect is handled brilliantly to the point where it doesn't feel like a revenge film. It starts off with very gritty hand held camera work but as the film progresses to a more suburban local the camera settles and bright greens make it look like a pleasant world. This is also the time that religious aspects enter the film. Hurt has created an eden and left his past sins behind him but Bernal is a snake. The final integration of the King into the family environment is heartbreaking on all accounts as the metaphorical wrecking ball is just off in the distance. It's excellent stuff and crafted with care and passion without ever being heavy handed or inaccessible.
    Luke B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 13, 2008
    The King is dead.Pronounce the actual king.Elvis...isn't it ironic?Whether it's fiction or not,the protagonist is a punisher,a living avenging machine.Bernal is vicious under his cold expression and despite some straightforward situations after 45 minutes,it'll give you a specific thought against religious intolerance towards the end.Great film but no masterpiece.
    Dimitris S Super Reviewer

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