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For Chadwick Boseman, things are looking good. Cast as the Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and set to have his own stand alone story in 2018, audiences got their first good look in Captain America: Civil War and were greatly impressed. With Message From the King, now we get a chance to see more of the engaging actor and it’s a good showing, with a strong performance, carrying the film from frame one.
After getting an alarming message from his sister Bianca (Sibongile Mlambo), Jacob King (Boseman) travels from South Africa to Los Angeles with little more that a few hundred dollars and a mission. Once past some questioning custom agents, he gets himself seedy lodging and goes on the hunt. He discovers the worst at the morgue and takes to piecing together what little clues he has, running through the gamut of cultural crossovers in the LA scene. These include a Korean grocery clerk (Joe Seo) to a rich dentist (Luke Evans) to a pedophilic film producer (Alfred Molina). Now, with a stylish leather jacket, a thick South African accent and a brand new but soon-to-be bloodied bike chain, he takes to the streets to get answers.
Directed by Fabrice du Welz, Message From The King is a gritty, noir-ish thriller that keeps most of its abundant violence toned down, with more concentration on the characters, though to be sure, there’s a lot here that looks familiar and is soaked in standards. From a rogue-ish unbeatable hero to a pretty, good-girl hooker (Teresa Palmer) with a cute kid to lots of somewhat clichéd and colorful characters, yet the urgency of King’s quest is enough to overlook most of these. Du Welz ramps up plenty of tension and wraps it around a fairly fast-paced story with some genuine intrigue. It works because of the characters and the stripped down layers of a dark side to the city we rarely see.
Boseman is the thing here, laid back and ultra-cool, he is the force that compels it forward and while it’s not entirely a new cog in the machine, the genre stuffed with similar haunted men, Boseman is hard to take your eyes off of. We aren’t really given much to work with, other than that brief opening with customs, which establishes well the tone, but that’s hardly a concern as the motive is all we need. Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell‘s script is tight and du Welz, along with Monika Lenczewska‘s excellent cinematography deliver a truly good-looking experience.
Palmer, who continues to prove herself one of her generation’s one’s to watch, has less here to do than some of her more recent work, but does good things here, even if the role is well tread. The film lacks greater originality to truly set itself apart but nonetheless features a terrific lead performance, one that will surely help to further establish Boseman’s presence. Acquired by and playing now on Netflix, it’s a good place to get more exposure and is an easy recommendation.
Movie description: Message From the King is a 2017 thriller about a mysterious outsider from South Africa who arrives in Los Angeles to avenge his younger sister's death.
Director(s): Fabrice du Welz
Actor(s): Chadwick Boseman, Teresa Palmer, Luke Evans, Tom Felton