“Kings” stars Halle Berry, Daniel Craig, Lamar Johnson, Kaalan Rashad Walker, and Rachel Hilson. Released on April 27, 2018, the film has a single mother and her neighbor struggling to survive the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
The film is directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven, who is known for directing “Mustang” back in 2015. I’m digging into some unfamiliar territory with this one, folks. This very small film made its first appearance at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival back in September before making its way to the Stockholm’s International Film Festival two months later. Despite its very poor reception, the music and entertainment company, The Orchard, picked up the film’s distribution rights for a nationwide release and released it on the same weekend as the box office juggernaut known as “Avengers: Infinity War”. I really had no idea that this was coming out until I found out that my closest cinema is showing it. Seeing that it had Halle Berry and Daniel Craig starring in the same film together, I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to check it out for myself and see how well it handles this type of concept.
The story showcases the events that happened before and during the Los Angeles riots that were sparked by the results of the Rodney King trial. While the film is called "Kings", it doesn't exactly follow Rodney King himself. Rather, it follows the perspectives of a foster mother (Berry), her neighbor (Craig), and her children during these devastating times. This is the type of film that knows exactly what it’s dealing with, most notably the African Americans’ viewpoint on the harsh lifestyle in 1990s Los Angeles and police brutality. Deniz Gamze Ergüven had the right tools she needed to perfectly portray the raw emotion of the riots and the people who are caught in the middle. While the viewpoints of the riots were handled very nicely, the same can’t be said for the emotional depth in the characters and Ergüven’s storytelling. There was an attempt at expressing some emotion, but the film struggled to maintain that type of consistency all the way through, and that's where it fell apart piece by piece. Despite some solid performances from the cast, including Berry as the foster mother and Craig as the neighbor, the development between their characters was either rushed or mediocre, leaving me without a strong connection towards those who are dealing with racial issues in Los Angeles. In terms of the editing and the cinematography, it looked like the film is trying to portray these horrific events in an artistic way, but it didn’t look “artistic” enough to be seen on the big screen and wound up being something that someone would find on Hulu.
Overall, the events that were shown in “Kings” should remind people to not repeat this type of history. Unfortunately, as a film itself, it solely lacked the raw emotional connection that’s needed to enhance this type of experience. Even though the performances and Ergüven’s direction were thoughtfully portrayed, the film immediately got caught in the crossfire due to its weak character development and its mediocre storytelling. It was a fine watch, don’t get me wrong. It’s just the fact that there were plenty of things that could’ve been done a lot better to make the film as gut-wrenching as the events it’s based on. If it’s available to watch on a streaming service or on television and you like Halle Berry in her other films, I would say that it’s worth watching once.