International rising star Gael García Bernal makes his American film debut in The King, which is the only memorable aspect of this muddled, unappealing attempt at tragedy.
Mexican-born Bernal, speaking perfect English, stars as Elvis, a mysterious young man just out of the Navy who decides to pay a visit to the father he's never met. His daddy, David (William Hurt), is an Evangelical pastor who doesn't wish to acknowledge the unsavory past that led to Elvis' conception.
David hopes to protect not just his congregation (and his job) but also his upstanding family: mousy wife Twyla (Laura Harring), college-bound son Paul (Paul Dano) and 16 year-old daughter Malerie (Pell James). That backfires when Elvis and Malerie (who doesn't realize he's her half brother) fall into a passionate romance. As events spiral hopelessly out of control, so does the film.
Whether or not Elvis intentionally tries to get revenge on David by seducing his daughter is never clear. There's little to no exploration of Elvis' background or mental state and his motivations remain frustratingly murkyas do those of the filmmakers. The King plays, at various times, like a gothic romance, religious satire, character study and conventional thriller, but it's never successful as any of those. And while the violent conclusion reaches for grand tragedy, it comes off as just gratuitous.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times