By Dave B.
Before the world knew him as King T’Challa, Chadwick Boseman played another king, Jacob King, in Message from the King (currently on Netflix). Message from the King is a tale of revenge in which Boseman plays a South African with a particular set of skills, who journeys to Los Angeles in search of his sister. Traditionally, revenge flicks need at least one of three elements to be successful: a novel setting/situation, a deep and compelling psychological insight into the protagonist, victim, and/or antagonist, or non-stop action. This movie tries to break with tradition by avoiding the adoption of any of those elements. The thing is, traditions often exist for a reason, and none of the positive things about this movie are ultimately enough to make it an unquestioned success.
On the positive side, the acting in Message from the King is great. The cast as a whole is strong. Boseman is fantastic as always and he and Teresa Palmer (Kelly) have some decent platonic chemistry. The dialogue usually feels natural and most of the main characters aren’t completely one-dimensional. I’m a fan of many of the directorial choices and cinematography. On paper, there’s a lot to like (or to at least not hate) about this movie. It just has one fatal flaw: It’s kinda boring.
It isn’t that the ENTIRE movie is boring. I didn’t fall asleep. I didn’t get agitated and have to start pacing around. I didn’t get distracted and start reading news on my phone. It’s more like…A slow, thoughtful pace with minimal action is a plus in many types of movies. That pace is not necessarily appropriate in movies about revenge, however, unless those films are written and directed by a master of his or her craft. Message from the King falls short of that level of craftsmanship, at least as far as the plot is concerned. I rarely say this, but this movie would have benefited from replacing about 20 minutes of conversation and introspective looks with some more violence.
Despite myself, I don’t dislike Message from the King. It isn’t a bad movie. It’s just not a good film in its genre. So, Message from the King is going to have the distinction, at least for a while, of being the first movie that I rate this highly, but still do not recommend. 6/10