The Princess: Review
The Princess Synopsis: When a strong-willed princess (Joey King) refuses to wed a cruel sociopath (Dominic Cooper), she is kidnapped and locked in a remote tower. With her scorned, vindictive suitor intent on taking her father’s throne, the princess must protect her family and save the kingdom.
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. A young princess is kept prisoner by a maniacal madman. However, this princess is no damsel in distress. Armed with years of training against an army of chauvinist knights, she undertakes a deadly, Die Hard-esque crusade to free her family and kingdom in The Princess.
Reinventing classic fairy tale archetypes with a modernist lens isn’t unheard of in Hollywood. It’s one of those popularized trends that studios have tried and often failed at enacting with their slate of lukewarm features (Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, and The Huntsman: Winter’s War are a few notable flops). With The Princess, director Le-Van Kiet crafts a spirited, blood-soaked actioner that reenergizes its familiar formula.
Several classical revamps vie for their own tonal identity without fully dedicating themselves to their different approach. The Princess thankfully possesses complete self-awareness of the lean-and-mean genre exercise it wants to embody. Like a relic from the 80s and 90s action hero heyday, the film showcases a relentless onslaught of choreographed duals and high-flying stunts through its own frenetic, wild-child sensibility.
In his American debut, Kiet showcases himself as a sound craftsman. Kiet and his team work creatively to envision the cramped tower as a violent playground littered with murder tools and opportunistic traps. His camerawork proves to be equally adept – kinetically swinging alongside each sword thrust and blood splat while ensuring a steady visual composition. There are some noticeable budgetary restrictions here, but Kiet’s lively visceral pulse transforms the makeshift sets and cheap CGI into an endearing strength.
Part of what makes The Princess connect despite its breathless plotting is its star, Joey King. Wearing the grizzled grit and dramatic gravitas of a well-traveled warrior, King emanates movie star energy as the charismatic princess battling for her honor. She elevates material that feels relatively standard-issue, showcasing a radiating strength that enhances the film’s feminist lean. Co-star Dominic Cooper also has a blast playing the film’s whiney, self-absorbed antagonist.
While it works as a genre exercise, The Princess still displays room for improvement. I give props to screenwriters Jake Thorton and Ben Lustig for inventing a forward-thinking concept with room for satirical barbs. It is a fun twist to paint the feudal-era men as chauvinist buffoons that shouted over their more-competent female counterparts. That said, the script does not possess the wit or intelligence to take advantage of the concept. I wish the screenplay maintained the same personality and creative vitality of the visceral filmmaking on display.
Unevenness aside, The Princess offers a taunt bloodbath for fans of old-school actioners. I hope this is the first of several action star projects for Joey King.