The King (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The King is one of the most profoundly twisted and depressing films I've ever seen.

Gael Garcia Bernal plays a young man named Elvis, the son of a Mexican prostitute and a Southern white man who never acknowledged his paternity. When we first see him, Elvis is being released from the navy. He stops at a brothel during the opening credits, and then heads "home" to meet the father (William Hurt) he has never met before. Elvis introduces himself to dad, who has now repented of the misspent youth which spawned the lad, and has become a Baptist preacher with an upstanding life and a close family. The father essentially tells his son to kiss off. Not a good move, for Elvis seems to be a modern day Iago, capable of scheming truly evil schemes.

Elvis proceeds to execute a twisted and calculating "revenge" plan. (I guess it is revenge for dad's slights or imagined slights against himself and his mother, but his motivation is never really that clear.) He seduces and impregnates his virginal and sensitive half-sister without telling her about their blood connection, then knifes his half-brother to death in secret, all the while slowly ingratiating himself with his father. That only reflects the beginning of Elvis's machinations. He has far more evil in store for the family before the movie will end. In essence, Elvis turns out to be not Iago, but Satan himself, taunting and testing the Christians as he did to their founder in the desert long ago, measuring the sincerity of their commitment to Christian forgiveness.

I'm really not sure what this film is supposed to be. Is it an arty horror film about a twisted sociopath, ala Psycho? Is is some kind of morality play in the tradition of the Greek tragedies? Or is it a pitch-black comedy which attacks the hypocrisy of Christian values? I'm just not sure. One critic described it as a morality play without the morals, and that seems accurate to me. Variety called it "pointless" and "unjustifiably ugly," and I echo those sentiments as well. It's an unpleasant experience. Whatever the film's takeaway is supposed to be, and no matter how great the intrinsic value of the direction and acting, the plain fact of the matter is that this film has almost no audience. It doesn't have the over-the-top guilty pleasures necessary to please the horror film buffs, and it doesn't have enough focus or a strong enough point to please the arthouse drama crowd. It is an exasperating and profoundly non-commercial, feel-bad movie, albeit a slickly constructed one.



  • Commentary by writer/producer Milo Addica and writer/director James Marsh
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Actor Rehearsals



  • Pell James shows one breast in a sex scene.

  • Veronica Bernal shows her breasts in a sex scene with Gael Barnal (no relation).

The Critics Vote ...

  • British consensus: two and a half stars out of four. Mail 6/10, Telegraph 6/10, Independent 6/10, Guardian 6/10, Sun 7/10, Mirror 6/10, BBC 4/5.


The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It grossed about a quarter of a million dollars in sub-arthouse distribution. (16 theaters was its maximum distribution.)
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C+. This is a classic case of a "good" film which has almost no audience because it represents a deeply unpleasant experience with no easily describable value. It lacks the guilty pleasures of an exploitation film, but it also lacks the message and moral fiber of a drama, so it plays out like an exploitation film without the explicitness. Can it be called a good movie? Probably so. Do you want to see it? Probably not.

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