Sony // 2005 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // April 13th, 2007
A warrior's path. A king's destiny.
Shipwrecked in Ayutthaya, Siam in 1547, Portuguese adventurer Fernando De Gama (Gary Stretch, Alexander) joins forces with his countryman, Phillippe De Torres (John Rhys-Davies, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring). De Torres and his conquistadors have a political alliance with the King of Ianna (Daam Dasakorn). Soon enough, De Gama's bravery and skill in combat earn him a position as one of the king's bodyguards. The king is in great danger as the ruthlessly evil and calculating Queen Sudachan (Yoe Hassadeevichit) has designs on his throne even as she cuckolds him with a young upstart named Pan Bud Sri Thep (Akara Amarttayakul). Meanwhile, De Gama's budding love for De Torres' daughter Maria (Cindy Burbridge) is complicated by his realization that De Torres may be responsible for his father's murder when Fernando was only a boy.
Did you follow all that? This Thailand-based production from director Lek Kitaparaporn (Angkor: Cambodia Express) is a tangle of epic adventure and labyrinthine soap opera plotting. It's not a serious historical film, but a Thai imitation of an over-the-top Hollywood blockbuster. I wish I could say it's a successful imitation, but it's not. Instead, The King Maker seems to have gotten the best of Kitaparaporn (who has only one other directorial credit) in nearly every way possible. Each of the movie's multiple plot threads resolve, but none of them do so in a satisfying way. Kitaparaporn would have been better served removing either the romance or, better yet, the completely inconsequential secret conflict between De Gama and De Torres. Conventional as it is, the film's political intrigue might work if it wasn't bogged down by all of the other distractions packed into its relatively short running time.
The King Maker's biggest problem is that its aspirations exceed its budget. I'm guessing that $15 Million isn't peanuts for a film produced in Thailand, but it's far short of the amount of cash it would've taken to make this flick entertaining. Kitaparaporn does a competent job, but the picture is loaded with indications of budgetary strain. I don't know what it costs these days to hire John Rhys-Davies to play a small role in an offshore production, but The King Maker's makers might've been better served passing on the big name and using the money to hire a better slate of actors for the movie's lead roles. The performances are uniformly terrible (the actors probably aren't aided by having to perform in English, which pretty clearly is a second language for most of them). Yoe Hassadeevichit is the only one of the thespians who chews scenery with any panache. If the dialogue was actually in her native tongue, she'd probably be pretty good. Everyone else is either out of their depth (Cindy Burbridge, a VJ on an Indian music video show) or going through the motions (British character actor Gary Stetch).
The micro-budget also rears its ugly head in the special effects department. The beginning of the film offers a couple shots with the worst CGI I've maybe ever seen. The thing is, you can see what Kitaparaporn was going for. If he'd had more money to throw at the shots, they might've looked cool. Instead they're so far from having a photorealistic veneer that they look like the animatics major Hollywood productions use as guidelines for effects animation. There's also some horrible wire-fighting stuff when a Japanese delegation arrives in Ayutthaya for no apparent reason other than to provide the stunt coordinators the opportunity to choreograph some ninja combat. On the plus side, Kitaparaporn stages a major battle with a fair amount of style and intelligence, carefully using mise-en-scene to create the illusion that his small cadre of extras is two armies clashing violently. It's the directorial zenith of the picture, and proof that Kitaparaporn might do some good work if he relied on his wits instead of half-realized Hollywood-style effects.
The King Maker looks good but sounds mediocre on this Sony DVD release. The 1.85:1 anamorphically-enhanced transfer is colorful, detailed, and absent dirt, damage, or annoying video artifacts. The Dolby 5.1 audio is poorly mixed, however. Elements of the score in the rear soundstage consistently overwhelm dialogue and effects in the front soundstage. It's an annoying listen, akin to trying to hear a television over a stereo blaring in the next room.
There are absolutely no extras.
The efforts of director Lek Kitaparaporn and his cast and crew appear earnest enough that they probably deserve a B for effort. Their hard work and good intentions failed to make The King Maker a good movie, however. It's guilty as charged.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R