Joey King’s Princess Overview

(from left): Joey King and Veronica Ngo in The Princess.

(from left to right): Joey King and Veronica Ngo in Princess.
image: 20th Century Studios

A simple and completely simple action movie, Princess At the narrative level, there is a lack of authenticity and clarity about the purpose of the title character. Without any sense of pre-built adventure, the result is something that isn’t fish or chicken — too generic for most fans of the genre and too violent for teenagers. is looking for some means of uplifting in the story of a young woman who defends her kingdom under the sword.

Directed by Le Van Kiet, the film opens with a scene where a captive, handcuffed princess (Joey King) defeats some henchmen sent to find her. The evil Julius (Dominic Cooper, empty trade), aided by Moira (Olga Kurylenko), has kidnapped her parents, the King (Ed Stoppard) and Queen (Alex Reid), as well as her 11-year-old sister. yours, Violet. (Katelyn Rose Downey), in an attempt to force the princess to agree to marry, thereby cementing her right to take over power.

The flashback shows the princess leaving Julius humiliated before the altar, while also training with Linh (Veronica Ngo), an ally and friend of her parents. After escaping and at first hiding, the princess battles numerous mercenaries, even teaming up with Linh for a moment. In the third act, the film offers a twist in which Julius comes up with an alternative plan to marry only Violet, but quickly discards the darker implications of this turning point to return to more conventional plot.

There are early signs of that Princess, written by Ben Lustig and Jake Thornton, lacked some of the resources to bring their grand vision to life. In one scene, when a group of men labored to drop a seemingly heavy wooden beam that could seal a gate, the accompanying sound effects sounded like knocking on an empty table. Several scenes then emerge in what might represent the worst CGI burn ever brought to the screen. In between and after, are sequences that gather the attackers shouting or growling meaninglessly, as if the film had used up the stuntman’s dialogue abilities.

None of these bits, it should be stressed, are enough, individually or in aggregate, to raise the movie to the status of “interestingly bad.” Rather, they are simply indicators of daily shortfalls, cut corners, and compromises which render the film unsuccessful.

Zooming out from the production itself, it’s somewhat difficult to understand The Princess’ history as a spec script sale, especially since its single most distinguishing characteristic is a total lack of distinguishing characteristics. The tale of a princess called or pushed to action in defense of her younger sister might be interesting, and even carry with it some additionally heightened emotional punching power in a post-Roe world. But the screenplay’s treatment of that aspect is perfunctory; its subject is a headstrong, capable and independent young woman who merely happens to have a younger sibling. There’s no nuance or depth to the relationship between Violet and her sister.

Meanwhile, if Moira initially seems to fall in line with the tradition of witchy, king-whispering second-in-commands secretly pining for or accruing power for themselves, the movie abandons even that trope, instead rendering the character merely a physical enforcer with a slightly more notable weapon of choice (a barbed whip). Even a moment of heavy-handed political messaging in its first 10 minutes (“You have welcomed outsiders—you should have conquered them!,” Julius scolds the King, as the camera cuts away to a small group of pitiable, differently colored refugees) falls away, so allergic is The Princess to any type of specificity.

This leaves viewers with… just a lot of action. Like, lots of action—all of it very familiar, and most of it staged with little imagination. To dwell too much on its largely unmotivated nature could risk coming off as a genre-hater. But it’s worth pointing out that there isn’t really much story here, other than to go “get” the princess—who, again, has already been detained. Does the wedding need to actually take place within a certain time period, or be witnessed by specific parties? Who precisely is mollified by a forced marriage? A viewer never really knows.

The princess, understandably, loathes Julius. But her opposition isn’t rooted in arguments about love or attraction, but women being able to serve as royal heir. Still, what does a “win” look like for the princess, and what is the plan to achieve that, apart from simply killing hundreds of people seeking to help enforce Julius’ wedding wish?

To be clear, if it’s just the latter, that’s fine too. But The Princess never really articulates that seat-of-the-pants survival. It is a series of scenes in search of a story. And in the absence of a more restrictive and rigorously defined setting, which could have hypothetically borrowed part of the appeal of something like The Raid (or at least given the movie a structurally sturdy, video game board-clearing feeling), The Princess basically just serves up a never-ending assembly line of goons who are bad at their job. At one point the princess gets captured, but then escapes, so that the vaguely defined mayhem recommences.

King, who first gained recognition as a child actor in 2010’s Ramona and Beezus, and then proved herself a capable young performer in 2019’s The Act, struggles here to deliver a fully dimensional character. She’s not done many favors with the material, true. But she neither communicates steely, sophisticated resolve, nor credibly delivers as an action heroine. The movie instead relies on editing and manipulated frames-per-second sleight-of-hand (never quite slow-motion, never quite hyperkinetic) to sell its physical confrontations.

Overall, The Princess is forgettable—just another number in a library of entertainment assets, the type of thing executives refer to as content or programming on shareholder calls. There is no glory for anyone involved here, nor any enjoyable, diversionary escape for a viewer.

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