Before Joey King betrayed his way to the top by High-speed trainshe gave a strong and efficient performance in Princess. Released on Hulu earlier this summer, this windy and bloody action flick stars King as the titular princess, who must prove her worth even to her father by killing anyone who stands in her way. Although nothing about the story is creative and the script is a bit overloaded at the end, director Le-Van Kiet and King have delivered a slick action flick that’s a silly way to kill 90 minutes.
The plot for Princess is so worn that writers Ben Lusting and Jake Thornton forgot to give King’s character a real name. The princess, as she is simply mentioned in the credits, begins locked in a tower after Julius (Dominic Cooper) staged a coup to take over his kingdom and plans to marry him for a show of legitimacy. The princess’s father, creatively named The King (Ed Stoppard), refused to name his heir because she is female and thought Julius was a good guy. Of course, the princess knew better and she rejected his hand. In response, Julius locked up the king, queen (Alex Reid) and their youngest daughter Violet (Katelyn Rose Downey) and locked the princess away until he married her.
Much of this backstory really takes place in flashbacks, interspersed with well-choreographed fight scenes that are underscored by Natalie Holt’s over-the-top music. Indeed, the first half of the film unfolds somewhat like die hard-in a castle, and that’s a pretty fun start. However, this leads to an overloaded third act, as if Lusting and Thornton too late thought they hadn’t had enough and weren’t fully accepting of having a simple one-sentence plot. “A captured princess kills people to save her family from a tyrant” wasn’t enough for them. It would be fascinating to see how different the momentum of the film would have been had we been introduced to The Princess earlier in her life instead of starting out by watching her kill guards in progressively more creative ways.
King, who also served as executive producer on the film, really dives into the character, even if she doesn’t have a name. She brings a mix of humor when she’s not swinging a sword, so much so that you’ll wish she had more lines to deliver during fights. Cooper also excels at chewing up prime scenery as the villainess, and Olga Kurylenko is fun to watch as Moira, Julius’s villainous right-hand man. Veronica Ngo plays the princess’s close friend and inspiration, Linh. The cast is great too, as there is diversity in the King’s Castle, and it’s actually mentioned in one of Julius’ first speeches.
Princess is a fun watch, even if it doesn’t break new ground in the action movie genre. It puts on a format we’re used to seeing in a modern setting in a medieval kingdom, which gives the story just enough juice to highlight the sexist rules the rulers have lived through in the past. If the king had a son, he probably wouldn’t have to go on a killing spree of henchmen to become heir.