Power, corruption, and betrayal

All the King’s Men is by far one of America’s most treasured stories-the novel, written by Robert Penn Warren, earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1947. The 1949 movie garnered even more praise, winning three academy awards and seven total nominations. With this said, it’s easy to see why the hype was so big concerning the 2006 version, released just last weekend.
The film, directed by Steven Zaillian, boasts one of the finest casts you could ask for in today’s Hollywood: Sean Penn, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet, and even Sopranos superstar James Gandolfini.

But despite the stellar cast and fantastic tale of power and corruption, All the King’s Men fails to bring it all together. The plot chronicles the rise and fall of Willie Stark (Sean Penn), a Louisiana politician, and shows him transform from an honest, hardworking man into a corrupt and power-hungry ruler.

The story is seen through the eyes of Jack Burden (Jude Law), a reporter hired by Stark to help carry out corrupt transactions. Eventually, Burden’s former friend Anne and father-like figure Judge Irwin (played by Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins, respectively) get swept up into the madness.

Overall, the plotline is terrific. Webs of deceit and double-crossings always make for an interesting story. In addition, Sean Penn and Anthony Hopkins deliver amazing performances, most notably Penn.

Unfortunately, the movie falls flat for the most part, suffering from weak directing and poor supporting actors. First of all, director Zaillian seems to focus way too much on the dramatic aspect of this film. Although All the Kings Men is meant to be a drama, every great dramatic tale also needs some humor here and there to lighten the mood and to help with character development.

Zaillian’s version lacks any humor whatsoever and ultimately has too dark a feel to really be entertaining. In addition, flashback scenes are placed poorly throughout the movie, sometimes resulting in an awkward pace.

Although Penn and Hopkins deliver stirring performances, the same cannot be said about the other characters. Jude Law proves once again that he can’t play anything other than an English character; he stumbles through the whole movie with an odd “sometimes there, sometimes not” southern accent. The same can be said about Kate Winslet, whose accent proves equally horrendous. Granted, both have some fairly compelling but dramatic scenes, it’s hard to take either character very seriously.

Oscar buzz has been circling All the King’s Men ever since it debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, and it’s largely due to its famous cast. But when push comes to shove, Penn’s stellar acting is the only thing that’s even remotely worthy of an Academy Award – otherwise, this movie would be a complete waste.