"The Princess" stars Joey King, Dominic Cooper, Olga Kurylenko, and Veronica Ngo. Released on Hulu on July 1, 2022, the film has a rebellious princess saving her kingdom from her cruel suitor.
The film was directed by Le-Van Kiet, who also directed films such as "Dust of Life", "Furie", and "The Ancestral". Throughout fairy tale history, every princess assumes the role of a damsel in distress, waiting for their Prince Charming to rescue them. Whether they're cursed, held captive, or stuck inside the highest tower, these pretty faces seem destined to be trophies for their future husbands. However, one princess is about to change that destiny…by kicking the ever-loving snot out of her captives. This weekend brings us another original movie from Hulu that looks to capitalize on the consistent success of the streaming service's previous films and the Fourth of July holiday. From the looks of the concept and trailer, this fantasy film seemed promising. The strong-willed princess element isn't entirely new as it is portrayed in many other princesses from some of their animated features, like Jasmine in "Aladdin" and Rapunzel in "Tangled". However, I was interested in watching it because the trailer made it look like it could be a fun ride. With that said, let's dive into fairy tale land and see if the film is worth watching at home over the holiday weekend.
The story follows the titular Princess (King) who lives in the royal kingdom with her parents, the king (Ed Stoppard) and queen (Alex Reid), and her younger sister Violet (Katelyn Rose Downey). The Princess is no ordinary princess you'd see in fairy tales as she's trained in the fighting arts by Linh (Ngo), the niece of one of her father's advisors. The king intends to wed the Princess to Julius (Cooper), the ruthless son of a diplomat who's not a massive fan of how the king rules his kingdom. Unfortunately, the Princess doesn't take too kindly to the news. When she left Julius at the altar, the cold-hearted prince and his band of mercenaries took the castle by force and locked the Princess in the highest tower. It sounds like somebody doesn't know how to handle rejection. With her kingdom in danger of being ruled by a tyrant, the Princess must take matters into her own hands as she races against the clock to save her family.
The movie attempts to take the medieval fairy tale route and transform it into a "Die Hard" clone, with the young Joey King assuming the role of John McClane. It also adds a dash of "The Raid" regarding the main character fighting her way through many different guards in a single location and the "Kingsman" movies for its style. There's also the fact that one of the film's producers is Derek Kolstad, who created the "John Wick" franchise. So there's definitely a lot of promise in this latest action thriller. Since I really enjoyed the action movies I mentioned that inspired "The Princess", there was no doubt that I would have a good time watching a princess slice her way out of danger. But, of course, there's also a matter of its narrative and whether or not it's worthy enough to match its fun and brutal nature.
One thing you should know about the film is that it wastes no time in getting the bloody party started. It just starts with the princess being trapped in the tower, beating the crud out of some of her captors, and attempting to rescue her family. Fortunately, the film didn't forget to include some flashbacks that depict the events before Julius took over the castle. They gave me enough context in its characters and scenarios to know what's going on, although I think it would've been better if the film spent the first half exploring this buildup further.
Aside from the structure, the plot delivers what I'd expect based on the trailer. It's a swift and violent ride that depicts female empowerment and courage within one's self. These messages come from the Princess, who seeks to become a fearless warrior instead of a property whose sole purpose is to marry a prince. It's a story that sees the character challenging a princess's role in medieval history by proving her worth as a knight. However, as far as storytelling goes, the film falters in delivering a thought-provoking and clever script amid its R-rated violence and inspiring messages. There's still some enjoyment to be had, don't get me wrong. It's the fact that it didn't quite meet all of the expectations it's going for regarding its plot and concept.
Along with its action, the cast put a noticeable effort into providing some decent performances. Joey King is definitely a force to be reckoned with regarding her role as the Princess. Not only did she deliver a well-deserved performance as the titular character, but she also proved herself to be the next watchable action star. Veronica Ngo did pretty well in her role as Linh, the Princess's trainer and ally. Olga Kurylenko was also a fine addition to the cast as Moira, a whip-wielding henchwoman. The only character that I wasn't a fan of was the film's antagonist, Julius. Despite Dominic Cooper's efforts in displaying the power-hungry prince, Julius comes off as a one-dimensional villain that's neither thrilling nor entertaining to watch. He's just a big butthole without a soul and nothing else.
While the film's story didn't exactly live up to its hype, the action sequences were able to compensate for this mild flaw. This film took the pages out of the "John Wick" handbook as it provided a slick and intense style that never took its eyes off the action. Le-Van Kiet has done well in representing the film's violent scenes that are more pleasing than nauseating regarding the editing, choreography, and direction. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed that it didn't do much else creatively in its adult-rated violence and presentation. There were also moments when the visuals looked a bit rough, like they were made on a lower budget. Regardless, the action is solid enough to inject some entertainment value into its royal concept.
Overall, "The Princess" is undeniably action-packed and fun, but its flawed narrative isn't enough to rule alongside the action classics that inspired it. Joey King is admittedly one of the elements that helped make the film watchable, along with its entertaining action sequences. Unfortunately, its inability to reach beyond its potential may make this a royal pain for specific fans of the genre. However, it does make for a fine watch if you have nothing going on over the weekend or just looking for something to watch with your friends. Otherwise, it isn't something that I would call the "royal treatment".