King Jack full movie review - Copy-Cat Predictable Teen Angst
Some of the people who gave this film a positive review here and elsewhere called it brave, and stunningly original, and indie at its best. Believe me, "King Jack" is none of those.
During the first few minutes I was reminded of 1999's "Joe the King," the two films even share similar names. I am tempted to say here that the writers and director of the latter film copied the first shamelessly. There are a lot of similarities.
Both Joe, played by Noah Fleiss, and Jack, played by the less talented Charlie Plummer, are young teens, approximately 14-15 years old. They both have unhappy lives and come from sad, marginally functional homes. Both characters are anti- social, commit petty crimes, and both even have older brothers who are supposed to love and protect them but in reality do neither. Joe comes off as entirely likable and a very sympathetic character, while Jack comes off as a very unlikable smart-assed punk that does absolutely nothing during the film to make the audience even remotely feel sympathy for him. "Joe the King" was written and directed by the immensely talented Frank Whaley while "King Jack" was written and directed by the entirely mediocre Felix Thompson. This film is not "indie at its best" and can rightfully be called "indie at its worst."
Leaving aside the obvious borrowing from the Whaley film, "Jack the King" suffers from pretentiousness. It is almost a parody of independent films: it is dark, both in subject and in lighting, the characters are unhappy, brooding losers who dare you to like them, and it purports to show how socio-economic hard times have destroyed the lower middle and working class families of America. The underlying message is that these people would be really nice, and just like you and me if they had decent jobs and good neighborhood schools. This is even stated aloud by Jack's ever-suffering mother, played by Erin Davie. When the boy refuses to cooperate with the police in order to put away the local psychopath, played by Danny Flaherty, she announces that Jack, "could have been such a good boy." Meaning that if the kid had a decent home, he would have been entirely normal.
"Jack the King," is a mess with predictable plot lines and very predictable outcomes. I would recommend to anyone thinking of watching it, to see "Joe the King" first. It is a far superior movie and a nearly-forgotten treasure.