THE STORY – When a strong-willed princess refuses to wed a cruel sociopath, she is kidnapped and locked in a remote tower. With her scorned, vindictive suitor intent on taking her father’s throne, the princess must protect her family and save the kingdom.
THE CAST – Joey King, Dominic Cooper, Olga Kurylenko, Alex Reid, Ed Stoppard, Veronica Ngo & Kristofer Kamiyasu
THE TEAM – Le-Van Kiet (Director), Ben Lustig & Jake Thornton (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 94 Minutes
By Ema Sasic
At first glance, the princess (Joey King) looks like your stereotypical damsel in distress. Donning a beautiful white gown with gorgeous curly red hair, we meet her as she’s sleeping, a la “Sleeping Beauty,” and shackled to a bed in the highest tower of her father’s castle. But looks can be deceiving, and this princess doesn’t need Prince Charming to rescue her.
“The Princess” dismantles everything you may know about fairy tales: instead of a true love’s kiss, you get butt-kicking and lots and lots of violence. If that’s the movie you’re hoping for, you’ve come to the right place. But you won’t get much of that here if you’re expecting a film with much sustenance or a deep dive into characters.
King plays a princess who, after refusing Julius’ (Dominic Cooper) hand in marriage, wakes up locked in a tower while her royal family members are kidnapped and held captive by her scorned lover’s army. Julius has plans to take over the throne by any means necessary, and if it includes slaughtering the royal family, then so be it. But the princess is not ready to give up quite yet. Throughout her life, she trained with Linh (Veronica Ngo) and Khai (Kristofer Kamiyasu) to become one of the best fighters – although her parents highly disapproved – and her skills now have to come to the forefront in order to save the kingdom.
Starting at the top of the tower and making her way down, the princess has to take on male opponents who are often three or four times her size and basically “clear levels.” The fight sequences are highly entertaining as she finds different objects in rooms to use to her advantage, or she relies on her strength and combat skills to, quite literally, drop kick each person who stands in her way. With each brawl, we’re taken to a new part of the castle, where delicate production design is shown off – quite the opposite of what’s happening in each space. The fight choreography might not be the most impressive, but King and her stunt double seem to be having the time of their lives, taking charge and sticking to the man in the process. And don’t worry, they don’t spare any amount of gore or violence here. The fake blood budget must have been through the roof.
As much as there is variety in these fight sequences, it feels like there are way too many of them. The whole movie is essentially one brawl after another with an occasional dramatic moment thrown in. On the one hand, the film was basically marketed as that type of fun, action-filled movie. On the other hand, after a certain point, people might crave a little more drama than just these high-energy scenes. Character development suffers as a result, and we only learn that the princess is skillful, has always stood out from the rest of her family, and that Julius is a power-hungry bad guy. A few welcomed quieter moments reveal more about the feud between Julius and the king, and even though they’re comparatively slower-paced, the drama is still entertaining. The high-energy nature of this film wouldn’t have been compromised if more of those moments could have made it into the final cut.
“The Princess” doesn’t take the crown for the most detailed script, but it’s an action-filled ride that will entertain audiences. Quite literally taking down the patriarchy one blow at a time, King has a lot of fun in this, which helps make tedious fight sequences more entertaining to watch. You might not learn or care much about the other characters, but at least you’ll know this is one princess who doesn’t need any saving.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Joey King and her double have a hell of a time fighting and kicking butt in this movie. There’s always a bit of variety with the fight sequences, making them exciting. The production design is really beautiful.
THE BAD – There’s little character development, and watching so many fight scenes is quite tiring. Having more dramatic moments in the film wouldn’t have taken away from the fun.
THE OSCAR PROSPECTS – None