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There’s probably no legend more tapped for mass media than that of King Arthur, sourced for epic tales of sword and sorcery in all genres of movies and television, many taking the story of knights and wizards in some creative directions, straying far from the mythology while clinging tenuously to familiar themes in hopes that name recognition will bring an audience. It’s what every movie that uses King Arthur expects, big or small.
And so we come to this, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, an ambitious movie made with a supremely small budget (estimated at $300,000), surely hoping to cash in on the up-coming Charlie Hunnam adventure, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. That’s nothing new in an industry that thrives on such practices, and while this story is appropriately preposterous, and there are some truly questionable acting performances, there is a comic book sensibility to it that offers some fun for fans of the genre and plenty of silly entertainment for anyone else.
It begins in the past when King Arthur (Byron Gibson) defeats his former lover Morgana (Sara Malakul Lane) and imprisons her their son Mordred (Russell Geoffrey Banks) to the outer reaches of the universe for crimes against the kingdom. Skip ahead 1,500 years into the present day and the two have managed to return to Earth, landing in, of all places, Thailand, where Morgana believes the descendants of Knights of the Round Table are living, protecting Excalibur, the enchanted sword of power. She slowly builds an army of mind-controlled zombie-like followers to fight the new knights who, despite some animosity among themselves, band together to stop the evil.
Directed by Jared Cohn, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a curious experience, a film of grand ideas that is surprisingly cramped, confined to mostly a few small sets, never really taking advantage of the setting and losing any chance to give it a more epic feel. That leaves the action limited to a couple of darkly-lit rooms where plenty of mostly well-staged fight scenes unfurl as the story progresses. These are all supremely-fit model-type actors and actresses in tight clothes grimacing and snarling as they lunge and swing and stab with their swords, often over doing it while delivering their lines. However, whatever it lacks in big budget gloss, it makes up for in raw energy.
The cast is large, with Lane the most recognizable name perhaps, chewing up her scenes with plenty of snarky fun, dressed in barely there dominatrix leather. She sneers and paces about with proper villainous glee, and Banks is equally well-cast as her son, his articulated delivery heavy and surprisingly authentic. They rest are passable but commit to it, hitting their marks more often then not, though this is really about the action rather than the story. No one is watching this thinking about the plot, even if it does have a few good ideas (keep your eye on the grail).
A film like this is naturally a case of limitations, restricted by its budget to try and deliver a film that looks bigger than it is. And so it is with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, one short on money, but not momentum. Fans of indie films and B-grade action movies, of which there are many, thrive on films like this, and the earnest filmmakers involved at least deliver some solid cheesy fun. Take that for what it is, but for a solid bit of entertainment, this one delivers well enough.
Director(s): Jared Cohn
Actor(s): Russell Geoffrey Banks, Harold Diamond, Byron Gibson, Sara Malakul Lane
Genre: Action, Adventure