Thursday, June 13, 2024

“THE KINGDOM”

THE STORY – In 1995, Lesia is a 15-year-old girl in Corsica, safe from the organized crime elsewhere on the island. This changes when she is taken to her father, crime boss Pierre-Paul, much to her chagrin. The two repair their relationship as they escape mobsters all across the island, and Lesia is drawn further into her father’s world of crime.

THE CAST – Ghjuvanna Benedetti, Saveriu Santucci, Anthony Morganti, Andrea Cossu, Fédéric Poggi & Régis Gomez

THE TEAM – Julien Colonna (Director/Writer) & Jeanne Henry (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 108 Minutes


An accomplished debut from director Julien Colonna, who also co-wrote the script with Jeanne Henry, “The Kingdom” is a compelling blend of gangster thriller and coming-of-age father-daughter drama. The inspired decision to tell a largely traditional crime drama story from the perspective of its initially naïve teenage protagonist gives the film an intriguingly original edge.

Set in Corsica in 1995 – marking a period when gangland activity was at an all-time high in the region – the film centers on 15-year-old Lesia (Ghjuvanna Benedetti), who’s initially introduced gutting a wild boar after a hunting trip with her father, Pierre-Paul (Saveriu Santucci), and his swarthy-looking buddies. Thereafter, Lesia appears to be a normal teenager, as we see her hanging out with her friends and kissing a boy, who she later plans to meet at the beach.

However, before Lesia can make it to her date, she’s abruptly whisked off by her aunt and deposited with her father in an isolated seaside villa on the other side of the island, where she’s ordered to keep a low profile and not to make any phone calls from the house. Though this is obviously a frequent occurrence for Lesia, it’s clear that she has been largely ignorant of the reasons in the past, and as she eavesdrops on her father and his visiting friends, she becomes increasingly aware of the full extent of his role in the Corsican underworld. An extra layer of danger is introduced when Lesia makes a forbidden phone call to her would-be boyfriend from the house, and shortly afterward, her father and his various associates are attacked, perhaps because she has inadvertently revealed their location. With her own life potentially in danger, she’s forced to go on the run with her father, giving them a somewhat unconventional opportunity for some daddy-daughter bonding.

The script is superb, cleverly aligning the drip-feeding of information to the audience with Lesia’s point of view and allowing us to pick up on subtle clues, such as the way the room full of men goes silent when a news report discusses the attempted assassination of a local politician. Similarly, Colonna has a terrific sense of pace; a gun isn’t fired until well over halfway through the film, at which point the tension rises considerably and continues to increase exponentially throughout the remainder of the film. In addition, Colonna – who was born and raised in the area – establishes a strong sense of place, heightened by some excellent location work and Antoine Cormier’s sun-scorched cinematography. Indeed, you’d be tempted to book a trip to Corsica afterward if it wasn’t for, you know, all the murdering and all that.

Colonna cast the film with largely non-professional actors, and that decision pays off handsomely, particularly in the case of Benedetti, who delivers a raw, naturalistic performance that stays with you long after the credits roll. There’s also strong support from Saveriu Santucci, who creates a touching bond with Benedetti, while all the extras do indeed look like maybe they’re doing a bit of moonlighting from their gangster day jobs.

A key highlight of “The Kingdom” is the way Colonna successfully mixes the gangster and coming-of-age genres, getting both elements right in crucial ways, whether it’s the shoot-outs and ambushes of the mob thriller or the way the touching father-daughter chats also come with unexpected mob angles. To that end, the moment when her father reveals why they are hiding out in a disused campground is particularly memorable, and there’s an amusing synergy to the idea that the entire gangland story is triggered by Lesia’s horny phone call to her boyfriend.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - A thoroughly engaging thriller, filtering familiar genre elements through an original perspective that marks out strong calling cards for both director Julien Colonna and young lead Ghjuvanna Benedetti.

THE BAD - The ending might not work for everyone. You'll see it coming a mile away and either roll your eyes or go along with it.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>A thoroughly engaging thriller, filtering familiar genre elements through an original perspective that marks out strong calling cards for both director Julien Colonna and young lead Ghjuvanna Benedetti.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The ending might not work for everyone. You'll see it coming a mile away and either roll your eyes or go along with it.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"THE KINGDOM"