King Jack was practically seen by no one, yet everyone was commenting on its greatness and its beautiful portrayal of normality. My curiosity for watching this film surged because it was about last week that some outlet reported Andrew Haigh was so impressed by Charlie Plummer’s performance in this film that he booked him for his next project. Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but this is the guy who just directed 45 Years, one of last year’s most impressive directorial efforts. But, that’s enough set-up, why is King Jack worth checking out? Its beautiful, that’s why.
A storyline and plot that replicates the idea of childhood by analyzing it from a very mature point of view works really well. Whilst Haigh was impressed by Plummer, I was blown away by the way Felix Thompson directed this in an almost effortless manner that never goes over the top and demonstrates what you can do as a director with a really low budget if you are confident about the story you want to tell. Thompson directed this in such a way that I felt like I could’ve directed this if I had simply taken my camera and followed a group of boys around my neighborhood all day. King Jack relies on its ventures through normality, making you feel each scene through past experiences you might have had as a child, packing a more emotional punch since you know what it feels like to be in said situation. The film takes you on a bike ride to the past that allows you to vicariously confront your former bullies, play with your younger cousin, and relive your worst and best night of your young life.
And yes, much of that can be attributed to Plummer’s naturalistic performance. You really get to know who this kid is based on his tone of voice and rugged look. You immediately identify the character of Jack and at first and mostly throughout the film he’s a total dick. He even acknowledges it, but then you’re treated with little glimmers of redemption perfectly set up by Thompson. The tale of King Jack becomes so much more than just the story of a kid living his day-to-day life, it becomes the story of an egotistical king who has come to realize he’s worthless and wants to fix that. Its a powerful journey of self-sacrifice anchored by Plummer and though at first I had issues with how despicable the character was, looking back at it and taking into account the last shot of the film, Christopher Plummer was great and took the idea of a reckless youth somewhere else, showcasing its faults and the toll the recklessness takes on you.
As for the supporting cast, they’re magnificent, they help ground the film in reality and steal about every scene they’re in. Especially Cory Nichols who plays Jack’s cousin Ben and Christian Madsen who plays his older brother. Nichols just perfectly embodies that typical younger cousin you see once in a while and has complete trust in you just because you’re a year older. Nichols is awesome and by far the best character in the film, he steals every scene and though his actions are quite predictable, they’re this way because Nichols perfectly replicates exactly what your younger cousin would do in that moment. As for Madsen who plays the older brother, he brings bravado that is hard-hitting and scary, in a way he seems like a young Ben Affleck and the non-comical version of his character in Dazed and Confused. A shout out should also go to the actors who play the bullies because those guys made you hate them as if they were some vile, wild creatures that pick on scabs and constantly open them just for the heck of it.
King Jack is an impressive feature, its got some problems with the overt nature of Jack sometimes and the fact that it was so relatable it was way too predictable at times. Besides that, King Jack is an emotional, hard-hitting tale told in a very subdued manner. Its a powerful story packed into the summer life of a kid and a mature depiction of being a victim in your community at such a young age. King Jack accomplishes almost everything it should, depicting the hardships of day-to-day life as a youngling, serving as a parable to a broken man, telling a beautiful story with compelling characters in a short runtime, and just being a great film that you should definitely check out.