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Review: Joey King slaughters castle guards like Arya Stark in Hulu’s ‘The Princess’

Can’t wait for the ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel to hit HBO next month? You could pass the time by streaming “The Princess” on Hulu this weekend for as much action-packed R-rated violence as you can possibly cram into a 90-minute realm.

Can’t wait for the ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel ‘House of Dragon’ to hit HBO next month?

You could pass the time by streaming “The Princess” on Hulu this weekend for as much action-packed R-rated violence as you can possibly cram into a 90-minute realm.

It follows a willful princess (Joey King), who is locked in a tower when she refuses to marry the sociopath Lord Julius (Dominic Cooper). To escape, she must demolish the floors of the castle guards to save her parents king and queen (Ed Stoppard and Alex Reid) and her little sister (Katelyn Rose Downey), who have been taken prisoner.

You’ll recognize Joey King as the girl in “The Conjuring” (2013) and “White House Down” (2013). This time she comes out swinging like a badass hero staring at a parade of older, fatter dudes and getting medieval all over their asses. Not only will you think of Arya Stark, but the hide-and-seek escapes are reminiscent of the bloody bride in “Ready or Not” (2019).

His toughest enemy is Moira, who cracks an evil whip as Julius’ secret lover plotting to slit the king’s throat after the coronation. It’s a match made in Marvel hell between Olga Kurylenko (“Black Widow”) and Dominic Cooper (“Captain America: The First Avenger”). His Howard Stark has no connection to Ned Stark, but in the end you will see the resemblance.

The film is visually arresting from its first tracking shot, navigating through the castle moat and climbing through the tower window to find the princess “Sleeping Beauty”. When she suddenly wakes up in chains, we step into her POV for a blurry perspective as she sneaks up to the tower window, the camera tilting to show just how tall she really is.

Camera placement is everything and that nails it. Everything feels carefully scripted, including the fight sequences, which are creatively choreographed as the princess moves from set to setting, descending the floors of the castle as if we were traversing the dangerous train carriages of Bong Joon- hey. Snowdrops” (2013).

You’ll hit pause on your Hulu remote to say, “Who’s that director?!?” Indeed, IMDB lists the filmmaker as Vietnamese master Le-Van Kiet, whose action thriller “Fury” (2019) was Vietnam’s official submission for Best International Feature Film at the Oscars after breaking the Vietnamese film record. most profitable in history. .

While the direction is stellar throughout, the script doesn’t have much to say after the first 20 minutes. Rather than an exciting opening sequence that sets up a bigger journey, the whole plot is the princess trying to escape. It’s fine for a genre exercise, but it would be like “Old Boy” (2003) coming to a halt after his escape. The simplistic script is starting to feel repetitive.

Luckily, we get a few breaths through flashbacks, triggered by objects in the castle like a Viking helmet clipping the young princess wearing similar gear as she spars with mentor Lihn (Veronica Ngo). It explains how she takes on bullies, while instilling life lessons in them: “A true warrior is not defined by how she fights, but what she fights for.”

What is she fighting for? Feminist freedom as the princess finally arrives in the prison cell where her parents and sister are being held, who smile at the realization of what a warrior she has become. It’s a cathartic moment of recognition that sells the film’s thematic core: a father forced to admit how much he’s underestimated his daughter’s ability to fight and lead.

That’s enough of a hook to warrant murder. Warning: violence is rated R like “Game of Thrones”, minus the fantasy elements of dragons and White Walkers. If you’ve never seen “GOT,” consider the throat-slitting swords in “Braveheart” (1995) and “Gladiator” (2000).

The brutality begs the question: why are the guards trying to kill her? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of holding her captive? At one point, Julius orders his guards, “Check the princess to make sure she’s okay for the wedding.” Then the castle guards fight her, saying, “You’ll never get out of here alive!” The riddle never really makes sense.

These villains are also quite dull, making eye-rolling and head-rolling mistakes. At one point, a guard said, “What do we have here? approaching the princess hidden in a bathtub. We think she’s in danger until we cross over to her vantage point to see he’s looking at a mirror through the eye slits of his helmet. “Sounds good,” he jokes, as if to say, “You’re a sexy beast.”

Ultimately, “The Princess” doesn’t take itself too seriously – and maybe that’s a good thing because the action would otherwise be exhausting. The film’s final line is hilarious as it fades to black, triggering the end credits to a cover of Billy Idol’s “White Wedding.”

If all you want is 90 minutes of brilliantly directed action, you’ve absolutely come to the right place, because this is the realm of Joey King. If you want a complex storyline, I have to quote Mario from the original Nintendo version: “I’m sorry, but the princess is in another castle.”