Film: The King Maker
Release date: 21st March 2011
Running time: 92 mins
Director: Let Kitaparaporn
Starring: Gary Stretch, John Rhys Davies, Cindy Burbridge, Dom Hetrakul
Genre: Fantasy/Martial Arts
During the early nineties, Gary Stretch was the glamour-boy of British boxing, his biggest moment undoubtedly arriving in 1991 when he challenged Chris Eubank for the WBO world middleweight championship in London. Billed as “beauty versus the best”, the outcome proved controversial, but because Stretch earned more as a model than actually fighting, he took the loss on the chin and the lure of movie stardom proved all too much. In 2004 his hard work finally paid off when he was cast as psychotic gangster Sonny in Shane Meadows' gritty thriller Dead Man's Shoes (2004). A year later would see him become the leading man in Let Kitaparaporn’s The King Maker. Would it take Stretch to the top in Tinseltown, or instead be the knockout blow?
Fernando De Gama (Gary Stretch), a young Portuguese soldier of fortune, sets sail for the Orient seeking the man who killed his father. Shipwrecked, captured and sold into slavery, Fernando is rescued by a beautiful woman only to discover she is linked to his father's murder.
When Fernando is pressed into military service, his heroics on the battlefield gain him the distinction of becoming a celebrated personal guard to the King of Siam.
It isn’t long though before he uncovers the devious Queen's plan to replace the King with her lover, so Fernando must battle to stop the very plot in which he is incriminated, before the kingdom explodes into war…
He said: The hackneyed but enjoyable opening, including some entertaining action scenes, impressive stunts and, particularly fun, our hero’s encounter with a crocodile, means that for a good twenty minutes the viewer is willing to venture further into a world that’s simple but functional and quite nicely conceived, managing to forgive the over enthusiastic use of computer generated effects and close up shots of a fake leg to the face.
She said: The opening stampede - we’ll call it an ‘introduction’ for now - reminded me of a young Tony Jaa, before he lost his mind and turned to religion. No offence Tony, but you had a talent I could see with my own eyes. Then you decided to live in a cave and reinvent yourself. I’m happy for you, truly I am. But action cinema pretty much lost its greatest creation since Bruce Lee - I doubt your God even remembers bringing you into this world, he’s probably more interested in impregnating virgins - it’s a rumour I heard. Probably a different God. The King Maker is blessed with a chaotic opening that breeds hope for the remainder of the movie.
He said: The one who suffers most is Yoe Hassadeevichit, playing Queen Sudachan, hamming it up with lines that would make George Lucas cringe: “Believe me, they have never known a woman like me before, but soon, they will!” she hisses, moments after another gem, in which she mumbles to herself, “He (the King) treats me like a common whore. One day, I will make him pay for his indiscretions, that, I promise!”
She said: The acting is atrocious throughout. Believe me, if the signature theme doesn’t remind you of ‘The Phantom Menace’ then the acting will. George Lucas must be shaking his hands with glee, The King Maker belongs in a world where the voice talent of ‘A Phantom Menace’ thrives. I’m not talking about the Qui-Gon Jinn’s of this world - we’ll pretend that he exists in a far grander universe - I’m talking about the soulless robots that inhabit planet actuality.
He said: In one more doozy, during a pointless cockfight, someone dares to utter the line, “There might be something funny about your cock” to the other contender. It has no relevance, and thanks to the drivel spat out before it, it isn’t clear whether this is an attempt at humour (neither is the Witch Doctor who sounds like Crazy Frog), which sadly, sums up a movie with actual potential to entertain.
She said: Nobody wants to watch a funny cock for ninety minutes. Not even a noteworthy performer like Gary Stretch. No offence Gary - maybe you should’ve stuck with the modelling. Did I say modelling? I meant boxing. Obviously.
He said: Equally tiring are the visuals, and it’s odd to report that The King Maker has already dated badly, somehow resembling the eighties imaginings of John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China (1986) a decade too late. It may bring other-worldly veracity to the party, especially in the opening exchanges, but how a film nine years younger manages to fail with simple back projection techniques (most notable in the big battle scene) is worrying, and certainly disrupts an audiences’ ability to suspend disbelief.
She said: The effects are awful.
He said: There will always be those who’ll suggest that all the corn witnessed here adds to the charm, but there’s no getting away from a terrible script that lacks realistic conflict and characterization, even if the score provides some thumping action themes and a couple of love songs Celine Dion would’ve been proud of, if only she wasn’t so busy with a three-year, 600-show contract to appear five nights a week in an entertainment extravaganza at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.
She said: Perhaps I was in the wrong frame of mind, but any attempts at heartfelt sincerity seemed lost in a wasteland of ceaseless hilarity. All you need, or so it would seem, is something akin to a Celene Dion number, several mortified looks of anguish, and a Thai Choir to get you through the heartache. Just so long as you don’t forget the slow-mo - and a few knowing glances. Believe me when I say it, even the stone carvings had smiles on their faces. Fernando and Maria (Cindy Burbridge) share the kind of relationship fully endorsed by the classic action movies of the 80's. He’s only known her for a day and already he’s coming out with lines like “this might be hard for you”.
He said: An exercise in style over substance, with very little of the former, The King Maker will entertain fans of Gary Stretch the boxer, but will fail to endorse Gary Stretch the actor, thanks to a script that hits the canvas after the first round.
She said: It's a film in which the entire cast speaks English, and nobody bothers with their native tongue - saves on the subtitles I guess. The King Maker is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. I loved/hated every minute of it (delete as appropriate).