The other night we started watching All the King’s Men, the remake with Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and, like, 15 other huge stars. That dog just wouldn’t hunt. What a picee of crap that was. I’m with A.O. Scott:
Nothing in the picture works. It is both overwrought and tedious, its complicated narrative bogging down in lyrical voiceover, long flashbacks and endless expository conversations between people speaking radically incompatible accents.
Right from the first scene, it’s obvious we’re in trouble. The scene goes nowhere, then we cut back five years earlier. But the first scene doesn’t raise a dramatic question. A bunch of guys are driving in a car an night. To a judge’s house. Why? And then they get there. Do they kill him? Talk to him? Take him to dinner at Hooters?
We don’t know. The film cuts back before there’s any dramatic tension.
Contrast this suck-a-delic opening to one properly done: The Illusionist, with Edward Norton. This is really good film. Compare: the film opens with the protag, Eisenheim (Norton) on stage, conjuring a spirit. Cops are in the audience. The crowd grows restless as the spirit starts to take shape, then the cops rush the stage and arrest Eisenheim. And I wondered, Who is the spirit? Why are the cops after him? What the hell is going on?
All good dramatic questions, raised by the first scene. That’s a hook. My wife and I both like this film, which is just a well told story. Some great shots of Vienna, too.