Los Angeles is often nicknamed “The City of Angels” and it’s not hard to see why. But in Message from the King we get to see a different side of Los Angeles, one that I haven’t witnessed before on the big screen. Message from the King revolves around Jacob King (a dark, bitter Chadwick Boseman) who comes to LA to find his sister. After looking for her some painful truths are revealed and King must go on a vendetta to find the men behind his sister’s disappearance. Along the way he meets some friends who help him in his search for the truth.
From Belgian director Fabrice Du Welz, the first thing that stands out about Message from the King is it’s steady directing. The actors thrive under his direction, specifically Chadwick Boseman and Luke Evans who both deliver great performances. Teresa Palmer puts forward a strong performance, showing a single mother who doesn’t rely on a man and works hard to look after her family. The friendship between King and her character really stands out and is without a doubt one of the highlights of the film.
The most surprising thing about the movie is that it really relied upon the smaller moments. Without them it would’ve just been a mindless action movie that was stylishly made. That’s what makes Teresa Palmer the saving grace of this movie. She delivers countless scenes like that with Boseman, notably the scene where they first meet and when she parts ways with him. This is also where my knocks against the film come into play as it becomes hard to justify the reason behind the making of this film or even what King’s ultimate goal was behind his vendetta. The movie was more intent on exploring the revenge taking place, rather than dissecting King’s psyche and what was behind his actions.
Message from the King (which played at TIFF in the Vanguard category) is revenge at it’s brutal best and captures the dark side of LA that’s not seen often on the big screen. It has multiple problems but thanks to the style and acting of the movie it overcomes those problems. It’s Fabrice Du Welz’s first time with a big cast and it definitely shows as his previous moutings Calvaire and Alleluia were much better (and darker) but it’s easy to forgive.
The movie ends in South Africa, showing the beauty and nature of the country. I had the chance to ask him why he decided to end his night shot movie in the beauty and light of South Africa. He answered; “There’s always light at the tunnel, even if for the longest time you can’t see it.” So while the first hour of the movie might not be everyone’s cup of tea, this movie certainly does pick up and ends rather beautifully. There might not be any message in Message from the King but luckily there is a “light at the end of the tunnel.”