Now On Hulu: Le-Van Kiet’s THE PRINCESS Crowns Joey King With Brute Force Action And Empowerment
A filmmaker for more than fifteen years, it wasn’t until the 2019 rescue actioner, Furie, that the name, Le-Van Kiet, began registering for a lot of fans beyond the Vietnamese market. This ought to be stated with much credit to North American distributor Well Go USA for doing a more than ample job in proliferating its director, as well as its star, Veronica Ngo, as we now look at one of their latest endeavors expanding further into the West with The Princess, a script by Ben Lustig and Jake Thornton that proffers a fresh, edgy, subversive and satisfyingly violent new take on childhood fairytales.
It’s a script that landed right in the prospective hands of actress Joey King, who also gets to share the role of executive producer through her All The King’s Horses banner alongside the likes of Neal Moritz at Original Film. The film is also the latest turning point for King who reportedly trained enthusiastically under stunt coordinator Clayton Barber (Creed, The Heart, Judas And The Black Messiah), who has worked on a number of Hollywood and international titles in stunts and fight action for the big and small screens. In sealing the deal, he brings his expertise to the table with fight coordinators Stanmir Stamatov (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Brave), and Kefi Abrikh (Fox Hunt, Nicky Larson) as key members of his team for the Bulgaria production last Fall.
Enter the core setting of a medieval kingdom that is far from anything close to its plush and sunny veneer from the outside. We firstly meet The Princess (Joey King), awakening from deep sleep and locked away in a high-rising tower on castle grounds for reasons unknown, until the film progresses further and brings things into clarity. From the moment she wakes up, she is forced to fight for her life from rows of mercenaries, making do with anything within arm’s reach, including her enemies’ own weapons, if possible.
Inherently, The Princess is more than suited for its messaging considering the patriarchal backdrop it is set against – a timely circumstance with the resounding atmosphere that now exists in our post-Roe V. Wade political landscape with the film’s July 1 release. To that effect, the film’s empowering message can fairly bode just as necessary in reality as it does in its prudence to the film, highlit by the dichotomy between the Princess herself, and her father and mother – the King (Ed Stoppard) and slightly less obdurate Queen (Alex Reid), who are already faced with the crisis of not having an heir to the throne, on top of an eldest daughter eager to defy gender norms and royal traditions, along with a younger sister in Violet (Katelyn Rose Downey) who zealously looks up to her.
The film rotates in flashbacks from time to time, unraveling events from her upbringing, right up to the point in which her ensnared would-be fiancé, Lord Julius (Dominic Cooper), along with the help of his heavy-hitting army of minions and his personal femme fatale consort, Moira (Olga Kurylenko) offsets his agenda for the throne. Some of those scenes eventually detail the role of Linh (Veronica Ngo), who plays a more than pivotal role in cultivating our lead into the person she becomes going into our main story. That transformation is brilliantly conveyed within the film’s ninety-plus minutes with up to a dozen action sequences unfolding from top to bottom, as the Princess’s pearly white gown, designed by costumer Verity Hawkes, gets tattered, muddied and bloodied, and later refurbished with armor and weapons of her own between scrimmages with Julius’s men on all floors of the tower.
As our heroine descends the brooding levels through the inner corridors and secret passage ways, the stakes are raised even higher going into the film. The bad guys get bigger and heavier, and the stunts get a little more daring with King performing much of the screenfighting work herself – her work, cosigned accordingly by Barber who, in the film’s press notes, said in part “She’s sort of a savant in action—she grasped it right away,” and later praising the “naturally gifted” actress for her passion and work ethic. Her performance especially goes hand-in-hand with Ngo whose screen caliber continues to make waves long since hitting the niche action radar in Charlie Nguyen’s The Rebel, as well as Black Widow actress Kurylenko in the role of Moira, who wields her own authority with a deadly whip and killing instinct.
There is only maybe one major gap within the second half of the film in which one of our heroes is captured, prior to which a climatic fight scene supposedly takes place. That scene is left to the imagination as we follow our protagonist’s journey before a near-death twist occurs moments before the final battle. Additionally, a few other flaws occur with maybe one moment in which wirework looks a bit excessive, and one scene in which a henchman is set ablaze and the CG looks rather questionable. The action definitely provides the proper entertainment along with some impressive cinematography, including scenes with multiple beats of choreography shot in one take, exuding precisely Barber’s aforementioned work ethic of the film’s star.
While The Princess isn’t the first film to feature a kick-ass heroic character in the same vein, Kiet and writers Lustig and Thornton take the lead in creating a fairly unique, whimsically fun East-meets-West blend for their Rapunzel a la The Raid spin on medieval action and comedy. The result remains an energetic, colorful and poignant live-action tale that meets the demand – topped off with a charming, witty performance by King who lends her creative instincts and physical prowess on both sides of the lens, as well as a film that continues to compliment Vietnamese action star power for audiences abroad.
The Princess is now streaming on Hulu in the U.S..
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.
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