The King (2019) 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

Based on the story that inspired Shakespeare to write Henry V, The King is a lavish look into the turbulent period of England's conflict with France over the insult of a tennis ball.

Young Hal (Timothée Chalamet) is not his usurper father's first choice to take the throne. That belongs to his younger brother, a more appropriate young man who does not spend all his free time standing in defiance of their father's edicts or swigging ale in cheap taverns. But when his brother winds up dead on a battlefield, Hal reluctantly accepts the throne. The mild-mannered, disinterested and downright detached king seeks ways to reconcile with their enemies, but then receives the ultimate insult: a tennis ball from the dauphin of France (Robert Pattinson).

Stirred by his advisors to seek reprisals for the implication that he is a "child" and not a monarch, Henry launches a war to take France. Little does he know that things are not what they seem, and an unpleasant awakening awaits him on the other side of the battlefield.

Released briefly in theaters and then launched on a streaming network, The King is a decent historical epic that plays fast and loose with history. It deviates from Shakespeare and avoids the language of the period in favor of more modern dialogue. As a result, it is easy to follow, even if some of the side characters do resemble each other so much, it's hard to keep them all straight. Hal is something of an enigma to the audience, and somewhat unpredictable -- he will be compliant and unaffected  by insults one minute, and the next whip out a dagger and stab an advisor through the head for manipulating him. He can be ruthless with his enemies, executing former friends without batting an eyelash. In that sense, he's a good representation of a medieval monarch -- intolerant of those who question his right to rule. One of the better scenes comes toward the end, when his saucy new wife gives him what-for and it impresses him so much, he bids her always do thus.

Overall, though, it's not a story I'd watch more than twice. It delves into some nasty battlefield violence with numerous casualties, and has a mean tendency to show executions in gruesome detail. But Hal is not a likable protagonist. The acting is top notch, as is the cinematography on the battlefield. It's hard to imagine how the stunt men and actors managed such constant chaos without anyone getting hurt on the job. The costuming is great for the period, and there are flashes of historical accuracy (such as the insanity of the French king), but the standout performance is Pattinson's over-the-top, cackling menace of the French dauphin. Bedecked in a golden wig that washes out his coloring, he hams it up to the tenth degree and makes the audience laugh with him.

Sexual Content
Hal is seen kissing and rolling around with a woman in bed, but then tells her to leave. Shirtless men. A crude sexual reference to the size of a man's anatomy.
 
Language:
Several f-words. Abuses of Christ's name. General British profanities (buggar, bloody, etc).
 
Violence:
Frequent and gruesome. Battlefield scenes in which men and horses are skewered, impaled, shot with arrows, trampled, and drowned in the mud. Soldiers attack a person and stab him to death after he cannot get to his feet. A prolonged single combat fight ends in a man being stabbed in the face. A man stabs another man in the back of the head. Blood pools around his body. A man finds one of his friends dead after a battle. Executions involve blood spurting, axes falling, and severed heads rolling around.

Other:
None.