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April 28th, 2006:
Willie Stark (Sean Penn
) is a Southern politician, bidding for the governor seat in the state of Louisiana. Early in his career, his idealized view of politics allowed him to see the corrupt behavior of his peers, but with time, Stark has become just as crooked as anyone. His right hand man, a journalist named Jack Burden (Jude Law
), is Starkís only voice of reason along the way. Soon, Burdenís naive perspective begins to bother Stark, who goes from being a promising hope and a man of the people to power-thirsty creature caught in a downward spiral.What to Expect:
Robert Penn Warrenís novel All the Kingís Men was published in 1946 and eventually went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. The 1949 film, written, directed, and produced by Robert Rossen, shifted the bookís focus from the Jack Burden character to the corrupt Willie Stark. It went on to receive seven Academy Award nominations, winning three, including Best Picture for Rossen and Best Actor for Broderick Crawford, who played the fascinating Stark. Renowned director Sidney Lumet
later remade the film for television in 1958.Steven Zaillian
will attempt to replicate Rossenís feat as in addition to his writing and directing credits, he is one of the filmís producers. His only other two directing efforts, Searching for Bobby Fischer and A Civil Action, became critical darlings and flirted with the Academy Awards. As a writer, Zaillian has an even more impressive pedigree. Heís won an Oscar for his screenplay for Steven Spielberg
ís Schindlerís List and has received nominations on two other occasions for his scripts for Awakenings and Gangís of New York. Itís easy to see why Sony
has been hyping All the Kingís Men to become the next huge Oscar favorite. Article continues below
The producers have been fortunate enough to assemble a spectacular cast, headed by Sean Penn. Iím not sure about comedy, but Penn can handle any dramatic role given to him. The demands of playing Boss Stark have apparently worn out the Academy Award winning actor, who is now considering taking a couple years off from work due to exhaustion. Jude Law is an excellent choice for the educated and idealistic Burden, possessing the necessary elegance for the role. Oscar nominated actress Patricia Clarkson
(The Green Mile, Dogville, Good Night, and Good Luck) is cast as another voice of reason in the role of Sadie Burke. She took over following Meryl Streep
ís decision to back out from the project due to scheduling conflicts. The cast rounds out beautifully in supporting roles with Kate Winslet
(Titanic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Finding Neverland), James Gandolfini
(Get Shorty, The Mexican, ďThe SopranosĒ), and Mark Ruffalo
(In the Cut, Just Like Heaven, Zodiac
). And as I always say, nothing gives your film more credibility than having Sir Anthony Hopkins
in the credits.
The ultimate question is whether or not this film is the Oscar worthy project it has been positioned to become. While that will be answered come wintertime, all signs seem to suggest otherwise at this point. For one, the film has been plagued by delays and release date changes. It was originally hyped for the previous Oscar season, with a tentative release date of December 16, 2005. That date soon became an impossible deadline and the film was expected to release this December instead. Surprisingly, it was announced a few weeks ago that the eagerly anticipated remake would actually be released September 22nd
, in the middle of a month not typically reserved for Oscar caliber pictures. Perhaps Zaillian has run into some problems during the lengthy editing process and the producers have not been happy with the outcome.
With so many talented individuals involved, I cannot imagine a wasted effort. The film is based on terrific source material and is bound to contain excellent performances from todayís best actors. It is sure to get the attention from the critics and the public. However, something feels slightly off here. Maybe itís just an example of a project collapsing under its own weight, as demonstrated by Pennís exhaustion. It could be that the impact of the original story will no longer resonate as well as it has in the past. Zaillian has asserted that this is the classic tale of a manís corrupted soul leading him to believe that a good can come out of doing something that is inherently evil: an end that justifies the means. That seems universal enough, but perhaps it is the 1940s Southern setting that gives off a vibe of a period peace that audiences might find to be a turn off. Or maybe it is just difficult to imagine that remaking an Oscar winning film should immediately result in more Oscars. In general, remakes tend to disappoint rather than improve on the originals. Whatever it is, something about the film gives me pause.In Conclusion:
Letís forget about the Academy Awards for a moment and discuss the film as the almost certain hit it will become. The cast alone is bound to generate decent box-office numbers and the story of greed and moral corruption is a splendid subject for any era. Steve Zaillian has the talent and experience to pull off a quality film-going experience. However, I cannot ignore some of the troubling and foreboding signs about the entire project. I think something was miscalculated along the way and All the Kingís Men will suffer in the end. At this point, it seems more likely that the filmís release will proceed relatively quietly rather than be met with a loud reception.Similar Titles: All the Kingís Men (1948)
, A Civil Action