Message From the King, directed by Fabrice du Welz, was released as a Netflix original July 21. As throwback to both film noir and the revenge genre, one would expect it to be thoroughly engaging, but somehow it falls short.
It begins with the arrival of protagonist Jacob King (played by Chadwick Boseman) from Cape Town, South Africa, to Los Angeles to find his missing sister. He investigates further, discovering what became of her and eventually embarking on a mission of vengeance. This mission leads him down a path fraught with gangsters, drug dealers, dentists and film producers.
The film is well-directed and features some frankly gorgeous cinematography, but underneath all that pretty wrapping paper
is lackluster writing. The story, although logical in its progression, failed to hold my interest. The plot was frequently dragged down by side characters that seem to act independently of the events taking place. These little asides broke the flow of the story, kept it from gaining any momentum, and took away time that could have been better spent expanding on the world King is being introduced to.
As a result, the film has a somewhat unfinished feeling to it, leaving what seemed like it was supposed to be a snapshot of L.A.’s seedy underbelly feeling more like a carnival ride on rails past a bunch of cardboard cutouts.
Overall, I’d give the movie three stars out of five. It’s well-shot, solidly constructed, and the actors are all talented (Luke Evans in particular stands out in his role as a smarmy, scheming dentist). It’s a passable movie, but not one that stands out from other entries in the genre.