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December 1, 2007
All The King's Men - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
22/9/200619/12/2007Sony PicturesSteven Zaillian
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4PCM 5.1 4.6Mbps
DD5.1 448kbps
MSean Penn

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Running for office obviously.
The first thing that you will notice about this movie when you pick up the cover is the cast; Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, James Gandolfini, Patricial Clarkson and Anthony Hopkins. It is certainly one of the most impressive movies in terms of ensembled cast in recent years. The movie is also interesting in that it is based on a book written by Robert Penn Warren in 1946 called All the King's Men. It is also interesting due to the fac that it is loosly based on the real life events surrounding the 35th Governor of Louisiana, Huey Long (you can find some spoiler-filled details about his life here). Why then they couldn't use his real name and events in the movie I'm not so sure. Anyway the storyline is as such.

Willie Stark (Penn) is an ordinary man from a rural town, demanding that crooked politicians and shady businessmen in Louisiana be held accountable for the collapse of a poorly built school. Urged to run for Governor by a dubious political advisor, Tiny Duffy, Stark finds his voice as a charismatic man of the people. He then befriends a young idealistic journalist, Jack Burden (Law), who eventually ends up working for him. But when Stark asks Burden to dig deep for damaging information on an old family friend, Judge Montague Irwin (Hopkins), Burden begins to question his own morality and Stark's surprising transformation into an inflexible leader that will stop at nothing to remain in power.

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So, why did this movie fail again?
Written and directed by Steven Zaillian (Who you may know as a writer on Schindler's List or the writer and director of A Civil Action) I expected quite a bit from this movie. Perhaps a tense political thriller, and inspiring rise to power, or even an election battle between foes. We get little of this. In fact this movie is so complex and disjoined that you never have a smooth flowing narrative. Scenes jump from here to there and you'll spend half your time trying to catch up to who is who, and what each character is trying to achieve. It seems that as soon as Willie Stark is elected he's up for impeachment. There's no intervening years or time shown effectively.

Now I've watched a lot of movies over the years, and generally I'm good at coping with heavy accents, but this movie was so hard to listen to. Sean Penn - as brilliant an actor as he may be - mumbles his way through his lines with a thick Southern accent and James Gandolfini is also pretty hard to understand at times. This is a full-on-concentration type movie, but doing it through a movie for over 2 hours is a pretty tall order. Perhaps not assisting that is the poor audio design which, compared to most modern movies, is pretty poor with muffled sounds and little impact.

All The King's Men not a total disaster though. The production values are high, and the acting is very solid all round as one would expect from such a cast. If you like your political movies you may enjoy this more then I did, but I would suggest that it will be a hard slog for most of you to sit through this movie.

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This showdown is intense - but wordy!
With a production budget of around $US55 million it is fair to say that the image quality and production design for this movie is quite impressive. As one would expect the print from which this transfer was sourced is pristine with not a blemish in sight. Encoded in MPEG-2 and presented in 1.85:1 the transfer retains a clean look from start to finish. Much of the movie also has a deliberate orange/sepia tone to it which tends to age the picture to the 1950's period piece that it is. There are quite a few dark scenes in the movie but detail remains impressive.

There were a couple of very small issues. I did notice some colour banding on occasion, including on the opening Phoenix Pictures logo, as well as some grain the image here and there.

Audio on this disc is technically impressive, but at the same time also pretty unexciting. Included is English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448kbps as well as a slightly more impressive Linear PCM at 4.6Mbps. All the King's Men is very much dialogue driven there is little use of surround sound or sub woofer. As I mentioned previously I had a hard time with the dialogue in some places in this movie. That's not a fault of the transfer, but one inherent to the acting and post production.

The movie also includes a 192kbps English Audio Descriptive Service which is a great inclusion for those that need such features. Subtitles are rather limited and only provided in English, English SDH and Hindi.

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Three great actors - Law, Winslett, Ruffalo.
Sadly this disc has absolutely no extras at all. I would have loved to hear some commentary or watched some documentaries from some of the cast in this movie as it is one of the best assembled for a movie in years. What makes this even worse is the knowledge that the DVD version of this movie has around an hours worth of extras including deleted scenes and an alternate ending, a featurette on the books author and also 4 behind the scenes featurettes including a 23 minute featurette on Huey Long - the real-life Governor that inspired this story. They should have been included - even if only in Standard Definition.

For a movie with such a strong cast, such a strong storyline and such high production values it comes as a complete disappointment that this movie falls so flat. To be honest, while the video and audio on this Blu-Ray disc are vastly superior to the DVD version, I would have preferred to see the older format due to the extras on the disc and if extras float your boat then I suggest you do the same. Still, all the extras in the world won't save this mediocre movie.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.