VOD Review - Message from the King
Despite all these well-known, historical figures, most people will probably know Boseman from his role as the Marvel Comics hero, Black Panther, which will get his own solo film next year, but he first appeared as that character in last year's Captain America: Civil War. Ironically, this film, which Boseman executive produced, his first feature as E.P., will probably be his least in terms of visibility, but this character and his super-hero persona do share a few thematic things in common.
Boseman stars as Jacob King, a man from Cape Town, South Africa. He arrives in Los Angeles looking for his sister, Bianca after she stopped returning his calls and messages. She's disappeared. Once he discovers what happened to her, he's out for revenge. It was the same kind of deal for Boseman's character in Captain America: Civil War. Boseman's Black Panther was out for revenge due to the murder of his father. Here, Boseman's Jacob King is out for revenge due to the disappearance and possible murder of his sister.
Essentially, this is a vigilante film. A man goes around with a gun and takes revenge or solves crime by executing criminals himself on the streets. Probably, the prime example of a vigilante film is Death Wish (1974), which has been remade this year with Bruce Willis. There have of course been several iterations like The Boondock Saints (1999), The Brave One (2007), Harry Brown (2009) and John Wick (2014). In comic books, many super heroes are premised on this vigilante mentality. The best of which is Batman.
Batman in general has been distinguished by the fact that he doesn't use guns and he doesn't kill criminals. He captures them and hands them over to the police and the courts. Later versions of Batman, including Zack Snyder's depiction in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, turned Batman into a killer of criminals. I didn't appreciate this killer Batman version. It feeds more directly into the myth of redemptive violence.
The film doesn't depict Jacob King as invincible or tough in the ways of the characters in the most recent Fast Five film and sequels. Jacob can be injured and does require time to heal. The seedy and lurid nature of Los Angeles bubble up, as Welz wants us to bath in it as a way of justifing Jacob's violence in the third act. Butcher and Cornwell's script does indicate a corruption in the LAPD as to suggest no other option for Jacob but become like Denzel Washington in The Equalizer (2014). This would be fine, if the end conveyed an appropriate sentiment, reflecting and lamenting on the violence in a way that didn't celebrate or show a need for it. Unfortunately, I'm not sure what the ending here is supposed to signify.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 43 mins.
Available on Netflix.