Quick heads up for the best approach in watching Call Her King. It’s a hodgepodge of ideas and various levels of competent execution. It’s probably best not to treat it like the standard “Die Hard in a random location” action film meant to be taken seriously.
Instead, just go along for what becomes a wild, wacky and occasionally surprisingly thoughtful anything goes action adventure that seems destined for guilty pleasure status.
Director/Writer Wes Miller (A Day to Die) has about three or four movies tossed in to Call Her King. It makes for a chaotic, confusing and outright weird film at times but it’s never boring.
The breakneck pacing starts off early as there’s a ton of plot threads and subplots to process in the first 15 minutes. Judge Jaeda King (Naturi Naughton) and her husband squabble over his restaurant closing during the pandemic; the women’s bathroom is out at the courthouse forcing her to go to the men’s bathroom where she overhears some racist comments from a colleague; a former flame, Hawkins (Garrett Hendricks), suggests starting an affair while she’s set to deliver the verdict on a case that’s earned her a slew of outrage on social media.
Jaeda has had a tough stance on criminals and despite the pleas of Sean Samuels (Jason Mitchell, Straight Outta Compton), she’s embracing the Cobra Kai philosophy of no mercy. Sean pleads he didn’t kill anyone, but Jaeda doesn’t want to chance letting a killer back on the streets.
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Not that she’s going to have a chance to see the case to its completion. A squad of armed gunmen/gunwomen wearing matching red K95 masks start marching to the courthouse as if they’re about to break into a step routine. To complete the evil bad guy march, they’re led by a femme fatale (Shiobann Amisial, Bel-Air) dressed in a crop top just to reiterate she’s bringing sexy back.
She’s the final boss before the main bad guy, Gabriel Samuels aka Black Caesar (Lance Gross), who gets a dramatic slow-mo entrance.
Gabriel is all set to stage a dramatic rescue of his brother and with his precision death squad, overwhelms the courtroom. Jaeda, Sean, the deputy Stryker (Johnny Messner, Tears of the Sun) and Sean’s attorney (Nicholas Turturro), manage to flee the courtroom while Gabriel’s goons pursue them.
Taking them film in an entirely unexpected direction, Gabriel decides to put Hawkins on trial for his role as the prosecuting attorney. Seemingly for laughs, Gabriel appoints another inmate — this one wearing a grill mouthpiece — on trial as the prosecutor. It’s a bizarre scenario that Miller is almost able to make come back full circle into working outside of a few questionable early decisions.
In what’s typically a brainless genre, Miller raises some interesting questions with some intriguing twists. They’re strongly conveyed thanks to the believable performances of Naughton, Gross and Mitchell in particular though Hendricks, Messner and Turturro offer solid supporting work. By the midway point, Miller’s established a compelling scenario where it’s not so simple to tell who’s really trying to mete out justice.
Miller isn’t too bogged down on helpful details. King’s case takes place in a courtroom with very visible sunlight pouring through from the windows yet the “step team assassins” presumably carrying out their orders at the same time are marching to the courthouse in darkness.
Miller does offer a brief training sequence where King works on her martial arts prowess. It’s useful foreshadowing even if her trainer thoroughly humbles her.
Just as useful is when Miller briefly explains how a judge could suddenly become a gun-toting superior combat expert gunning down hackers who downloaded Matrix files to suddenly become a highly trained special missions force.
CGI muzzle flash and blood effects are the main areas where the lower budget is apparent. Otherwise, Miller’s work with a less than blockbuster budget is solid with fight scenes that are fairly easy to follow.
Call Her King probably just needed a little more fine-tuning and another eye to clean up some of the script logistical questions. It’s engaging and entertaining enough, but with a bit more polish could have more effectively conveyed its message.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: BET+
Call Her King streams on BET+ starting July 6.