The Princess uses to introduce us to its female-centric narrative. Well, at least that’s what it wants to be.
Director Le-Van Kiet has only one idea – violence and brutal killing until you get tired of seeing bodies fall to the ground. That, and it feels like a plot that desperately tries to find a middle ground between good and evil. There is none.
In the fashion of the Indonesian action classic Raid, the princess’s mission is to save her family from the tyrannical and megalomaniac Prince Julius, but she must make her way down the Tower through a sea of wild soldiers. The main character is played by Joey King, and supporting roles are played by Dominic Cooper and Veronica Ngo.
To begin with, the first few minutes are really impressive. The setup (pun intended) for King’s Princess is full of excitement and a sense of confusion of what’s to come. Still in chains, she fights off two men in a crisply choreographed sequence—a trend that matches most parts of the film.
He then hides underwater while the tall, mountain-built knight does his thing. Amid looting and looting, infighting and chaos, he makes his way through the corridors and uncovers Julius’s real plans. Write it down, Hulu’s “Prince” crawls in a straight line, with Kiet rarely losing focus and surprisingly finding innovative ways to present the fights. Until the end where the charm runs out.
By design, ‘Prince’ acts as a mantle for the King’s prodigious abilities in the film to pull off the most daring stunts that even seasoned veterans would struggle with. On paper, it claims to be a function of “turning convention on its head” and reinventing the cultural image of the princess.
Screenwriters Lustig and Thornton take any softness and vulnerability from the archetype and replace it with bloody rage and a violent edge. The king doesn’t look the other way, but that’s not the point. She fights with the grace of a ballerina and the heart of a warrior. Her defenses seem impenetrable even in her uneasy and slowing white robe. The expectation of the film was to have a period fully realized in a tensely paced story full of modern sensibilities. This reality never comes.
Her remains are left in various parts of ‘The Princess’ but never come together to make sense. Keith’s Hollywood debut comes on the back of bone-crushing films like ‘Furie’ and ‘The Requin’.
There are notable similarities between the projects; too bad that somehow he never really gets to assert himself in the story. His inability to fully grasp or rein in where his story is going is somewhat offset by wild acting that looks like the hardest work the cast and crew have ever worked on. I liked the sequences despite all their withdrawals. Despite knowing what’s going to happen — another common pitfall “The Prince” falls into — there’s a sense of wonder watching it all unfold.
The great use of space and people does not make us bored in a boring way. Creative ideas behind the curtain of action lack texture. They’re so underdeveloped that you’d think the script was unfinished, and Kiet had to come up with the second half on his own.
The writing lacks any depth and fails to add value to the solid work put in by the stunt department. Removing the permanence of tradition and creating a new order is the furthest thing you’d mistake for ‘The Prince’. Kiet is least interested in context and most interested in culture. It is never explained how the princess had exotic masters, how she ended up in the tower, or how the high walls of the kingdom were penetrated by a handful of men.
“Princess” is a typical streaming disaster. We have so many of them, it’s slowly becoming an epidemic. It’s a watchable film, but not much. Fighting and action are all that it offers to the audience. Feminist ironies and gender’s power to resist all come in old forms and feel too disinterested to fully engage.