ALL THE KINGS MEN - 2006 - movie - A Classic Review - directed by Steven Zaillian, who also wrote the screenplay; based on a Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name by Robert Penn Warren. In 1949 a movie adaption of his book was directed by Robert Rossen was nominated for seven, and won three, Academy Awards. Zaillian claimed to never have seen the 1949 Academy Award winning version directed by Rossen. Spoiler alert… he should have.
The players in this version are: Willy Stark (Sean Penn), Jack Burden (Jude Law), Anne Stanton (Kate Winslet), Judge Irwin (Anthony Hopkins), Tiny Duffy (James Gandolfini), Sadie Burke (Patricia Clarkson), Adam Stanton (Mark Ruffalo).
On any other stage I’ll like Sean Penn… and his fine skills as an actor are wonderfully displayed here. But…. it’s really hard for a non-southerner to sound authentic. You’ll notice, that he’s the only one of the cast who consistently tried to adapt those faux southern inflections in his speech. One wonders, who’s decision that was… his or the director’s?
The plot and storyline imply that Willy Stark, with the populist’s vote, won the Louisiana governorship and then became a corrupt politician who profited from state contracts. He admitted that he’s used underhanded practices to accomplish his goals and in his mind the end justified the means. His aim was to build schools, hospitals, bridges, highways, etc.
So now there’s a movement to impeach him from office. The only people that want to get rid of him are the corrupt politicians who were stealing the state blind before he took office. We see no evidence of any his flagrant spending sprees, fast cars, yachts, etc. How have his tactics benefitted anyone but the poor deserving voters?
I think that James Gandolfini was awkwardly cast and he seemed just plugged-in to this bad guy role for the sole purpose of capitalizing on his Sopranos’ image.
There are some rousing moments with Penn’s grand speechifying and we are cast into the depths of despair by the always reliable Anthony Hopkins who can anchor any movie with his presence.
After all that… if you’ve plunked down your $12 for a ticket, bought your $6 barrel of popcorn and 16 once drink, you will walk out with a smile, a full bladder and feeling that it was a thrilling 2 hours of fun.
I’m reading Robert Penn Warren’s book to get the full flavor of this story. I strongly urge to get your hands on the 1949 movie with Broderick Crawford. Watching them, literally back-to-back, will give you a special insight into what guides the decision making process and how movies like this are made. I guarantee it will be a rewarding experience