Message from the King is an ugly, gruesome film, and unfortunately, there’s little in the film to justify it’s seemingly unending stream of tragedies. The film is a dour, grim story of revenge, yet there’s so little characterization, and so little actual tension or mystery, that the film feels like a compete slog to get through. While Chadwick Boseman gives a dedicated performance, it’s ultimately wasted in a film that’s confusing in it’s thankless subplots and general lack of dramatic heft.
Jacob King (Boseman) is a South African who travels to Los Angeles to find his missing sister, who’s become involved in a group of dangerous activities. This lead’s the film to its impressive cast, which includes Luke Evans, Alfred Molina, and Teresa Palmer- all of whom are wasted in roles that barely seem to affect the film’s overall plot. This, perhaps, is the film’s greatest flaw; it’s seemingly straightforward, but so horribly convoluted that it’s hard to follow any one element through thoroughly.
There are some interesting ideas in the film, specifically the goal of exploring the darker side of Los Angeles, but King’s motivations are so weak that the film never really gets going. Yes, a story this dark may not be neccessarily entertaining, but the overall lack of dramatic heft, and the over reliance on flashbacks, make for a forced and awkward feature. Some of the performers, namely Boseman and Palmer, give it their all, but this is a dull, stilted thriller. Grade: C