The Princess (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – When a strong-willed princess refuses to wed the cruel sociopath, she is kidnapped and locked in a remote tower of her father’s castle. With her vindictive suitor intent on taking her father’s throne, the princess must save the kingdom.

My Take – The tale of the damsel in distress is as old as time itself. However, what makes this latest from director Le-Van Kiet (The Requin) stand out from the crowd is that it takes well-worn fairy tale elements and places them in an action flick framework similar to Die Hard (1988), The Raid: Redemption (2011) and Dredd (2012), all in effort to gives us a stylish and violently entertaining good time.

Written by Ben Lustig and Jake Thornton, this Hulu release dismantles everything you may know about helpless princesses by aiming to turn conventions on their heads and reinvent the cultural image. But instead allowing its title character to slash, hang, beat and kill the hell out of a number of lecherous and traitorous enemy combatants, rather than just sit and wait for a true love’s kiss.

By design, the film is meant to be a showcase for Joey King, who has gained wider recognition since her lead role in The Kissing Booth series, and her abilities to pull off some daring stunts. And running for a lean 94 minutes, director Le-Van Kiet’s relentless, violent and unapologetic pulpy action flick delivers exactly that. But if that’s the film you’re hoping for, you’ve come to the right place. Because other than that there isn’t much to this film.

Mainly as the writing lacks any depth and fails to add any value to the robust work the stunt department pulls off. Clearly, the film clearly has an agenda to push for strong female characters, resulting in a something that feels very earnest in what it is trying to accomplish. However, without well-written characters or a better screenplay, the film just ends up subverting its own standard of quality and charm which exasperatingly vanishes even before the climax kicks in.

Set in an unknown medieval kingdom, the story follows a Princess (Joey King), who wakes up to find herself imprisoned, handcuffed at the top of a tall tower. Realizing that Lord Julius (Dominic Cooper), her would-be groom with whom she was supposed to enter an arranged marriage, has lead a coup against her parents, the King (Ed Stoppard) and the Queen (Alex Reid), with his whip-wielding hench-woman Moira (Olga Kurylenko) and a band of brutal mercenaries, in order to enact his revenge by forcefully marrying her and taking over the throne.

But what Julius doesn’t know is that the princess has been combat training with her mentor Linh (Veronica Ngo) since early childhood. And now with her family being held at sword-point, she is determined to fight her way down the tower and rescue them.

With a simple premise, the film starts off rather well. Still in chains, she fights off the two men in crisply choreographed sequences – a trend that holds for most parts of the film. Amidst the pillage and looting, infighting, and chaos, she slips through the corridors and uncovers Julius’ real plans. Post that, the film trudges on a straight line and director Kiet seldom loses focus and surprisingly finding innovative ways to present the battles.

The castle is utilized for all manner of sword fights, fistfights, and chases that per the standards of other John Wick (creator Derek Kolstad is one of the producers of this film) inspired projects let the action breathe and flow with well-timed choreography and long uninterrupted shots so we get the full impact.

But after a certain point it also starts feeling very meaningless, making us crave a little more drama than just these high-energy scenes. The fact that she can fight and is also a girl is more or less the backbone of the plot. Even the flashbacks and motivations that are introduced simply seem clunky. As we only learn that the princess is skillful, has always stood out from the rest of her family, and that Julius is a power-hungry bad guy.

As the film’s anonymous eponymous protagonist isn’t a proper character so much as a one-dimensional empowerment symbol. Sure, it is all done in the favor of a message, but we learn absolutely nothing else about her as the character doesn’t even have a name. We never feel sympathy for her situation nor do we feel like rooting for her.

Making matters worse is that the princess’s enigmatic trainer, Linh, is far more interesting than her. A foreigner whose trainer and uncle is one of the king’s advisors. But because this isn’t her story, we never find out anything more about her past, how she got so skilled, or how she and her uncle came to the land.

Nevertheless, Joey King is really good in her role and combines it with subversive humor and genuinely impressive stunt work that she apparently spent a lot of time and preparation on. She is ably supported by Veronica Ngo makes great use of her screen time with some fantastic scenes that offer another showcase of her ability to balance narrative elements and action equally well.

Dominic Cooper seems to be having fun, hamming all the way as hateful Lord Julius, while Olga Kurylenko is once again wasted in a role which except a few sequences doesn’t have much to do. Ed Stoppard and Alex Reid as the king and queen are just about alright, while Katelyn Rose Downey shines truly. On the whole, ‘The Princess’ is a watchable medieval actioner let down by its vapid writing.

Directed –

Starring – Joey King, Veronica Ngo, Ivo Arakov

Rated – R

Run Time – 94 minutes

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