Review: All the King’s Men

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All the King’s Men
Steve Zaillian

Columbia Pictures
Street: 12.06.2006

Based on Robert Warren’s book which is based upon the life of Louisiana politician Huey Long All the King’s Men is a well executed but sometimes overdone vehicle for Sean Penn to flex his southern diction as Willie Stark. The film follows Stark from a disgruntled mayor of a small Louisiana town until his death about five years later. All the King’s Men is told from the perspective Jack Burden (played by Jude Law), a newspaper reporter who is fired after being assigned to cover Penn’s campaign leading to his Governorship. Law is then hired on as a consultant/writer for the politician a few months later after Stark has rumbled into the Governor’s office. Law’s ties to his childhood friend Adam Stanton (Mark Rufallo) and his could-have-been love played by Kate Winslet as well as Judge Irwin (Anthony Hopkins) who raised Burden are all dredged out into the hot Louisiana sun as Burden digs for Hopkins’ (who opposes Stark) dark secrets at Stark’s request. Penn is hypnotizing , but sometimes over the top, as Stark, a man who can lull with his soft southern charm but whose outrageous body gestures and sharp tongue win over the huge poor population of 1920’s Louisiana. The screen play is fantastic and the interactions between (Law) and Winslet in particular are superb. There really is no weak link in the cast although at times the dialect can overpower the words. Some more heavy handed symbolism gets thrown in as Stark seems to be changing into what he once spoke so vehemently against. Women, booze and excess begin to erode Stark but when he takes an interest in Winslet at the same time he is asking Law to betray Judge Irwin Law is left with a difficult decision. I’m not going to give away the ending but when I found out how closely it mirrors the real life of Huey Long I was very disturbed by the final turn of events. – Jesse Kennedy