The King’s Surrender (2014)
Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the Transilvania International Film Festival. For more information visit http://tiff.ro/en and follow TIFF Romania on Twitter at @tiffromania.
“Fearful is the last place of injur’d innocence,” goes the Goethe quote on which The King’s Surrender opts to open, an amusingly ambitious announcement of dramatic intent for a film that feels like a German The Sweeney. This is wholly naff nonsense that ought to know better, a perfectly passable tense thriller whose damaging drawback is never admitting it’s not got an awful lot going on in the head. It would be wonderful fun if it did: second-time helmer Philipp Leinemann has made here an entirely enjoyable police procedural whose pleasure lies in a plot that never stops twisting. If its pretensions to poignancy never manage entirely to derail the flimsy fun, they certainly go a long way toward turning treat to task.
…a perfectly passable tense thriller whose damaging drawback is never admitting it’s not got an awful lot going on in the head. It would be wonderful fun if it did…
Injur’d innocence is a phrase emblematic of the film itself, in fact, which does just fine until all the dour dramatic weight Leinemann heaps atop causes it to crack in half, torn between the strained solemnity for which it shoots and the silly simplicity it hits instead. That leaves it a movie that’s watchable—even enjoyable—in bursts and unbearably boring between, creakily contriving ways to unite its considerable cast and begging us to take it seriously as it does. We can’t, and as Leinemann finds yet more ludicrous ways to have his several sets of players independently arrive at the same location again, whatever worth there seems to be in joining the intermittent fun starts to feel increasingly dwindled.
Commendation to the cast for recognising the movie they’re really in: led by Misel Maticevic as the head of the SWAT team who vindictively pursue Tilman Strauß’ group of delinquent youths, each of the actors—and there are a whole host; Leinemann at least has no fears of over-extending his ensemble piece—offers up a performance high on shouting and sweating as they work their way through the contorted convenience of the script. Such care-free commitment can’t but make the movie much more fun, and the combined efforts of this impressive assemblage add up to a film that, for all its manifold failings, passes by in a blitz of flashy, fiery theatrics.
Would that everyone had the same sense to embrace them: flippantly flying from corruption expose to intergenerational assessment, Leinemann is intent on presenting his film as the kind of powerful political piece or state-of-the-nation statement to which it never once comes close. If only he had thought to stick with his characters instead; ably enlivened by the steady work of the cast, these figures between them build up an efficient emotional underpinning on which the film is loath to build in anything but the blandest of ways. As the SWAT team’s beer-guzzling bro antics take precedence over the emergent mob mentality of the various kid gangs, it’s difficult for eyes not to roll away altogether as the better film waiting to happen dies right before them.
…Leinemann is intent on presenting his film as the kind of powerful political piece or state-of-the-nation statement to which it never once comes close.
It’s here the film shows itself as little better than The Sweeney before it: let not the po-faced pretensions mask the truth at hand, this is a film every bit as silly and stale as that Brit-flick happily admitted to being. Holding itself higher, The King’s Surrender can’t but come out looking a little worse, for all the fun it manages as the cast carry on in spite of their wayward helmer. He has talent to spare, no doubt—finely-mounted nocturnal action and an actively effective editorial sensibility prove that positive—but all the good will in the world can’t pretend it’s been put to use in anything approaching an appropriate manner. Shameful is the last place of squander’d potential.
A movie that’s watchable—even enjoyable—in bursts and unbearably boring between, creakily contriving ways to unite its considerable cast and begging us to take it seriously as it does.