Netflix Recommendation: “King Jack”



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Posted July 13, 2016 by

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The “Coming of age” genre is no stranger, to the landscape of independent film. Many a movie have told the tale of adolescent kids, learning life’s hard lessons, and shown those kids grow into young adults in under two hours. Drugs, sex, and violence are the go to tools that the writers and directors of turn to, to paint us a picture of the harsh life being led, by their protagonists. They are the same tools used by writer/director Felix Thompson, in his debut feature film “King Jack”. The story of 15 year old Jack (Plummer), living with his mother (Erin Davie) and older, rough around the edges brother (Madsen) in a blue collar American town, is a familiar setup, but Thompson does some very original things, to breathe life into this well worn genre. Not least of which is his choosing to make Jack a not-so-sympathetic protagonist.

king jack 2When we fist meet Jack, he is spray painting the C word, on a neighbors garage door. Not exactly the wide-eyed, “Aw shucks” kid we are used to seeing, in this kind of film, Jack is a foul mouthed, drinking, smoking perfect example of the old “Idle hands are the devil’s playthings” saying. With no father around, and a brother who would rather be out drinking and gambling away what little money he has, Jack doesn’t have much in the way of positive, male role models. Maybe that is the reason he exudes insecurity and anger in equal measure. Or maybe it is that the object of his affection humiliates him by showing rather personal text pics to the other girls at school. Or maybe it is the frequent, violent encounters Jack has with psycho-bully Shane (Flaherty). Whatever the case, Jack couldn’t be more pent up, because Jack’s life couldn’t get much tougher. That is until Jack’s cousin Ben (Nichols) comes to visit, and Jack is put in charge of his well being.

Both without a friend in the world, Jack and Ben become reluctant pals. They go on adventures, get the crap beaten out of them by Shane and his cronies, play “Truth or dare” with some girls, and ultimately learn some not so easy lessons. This especially goes for Jack, who finds that having courage in the face of trials and being there for your friends are important parts of growing up.

king jack 3Thompson’s script has the perfect balance of blunt honesty and raw emotion. With the help of some brilliant cinematography by Brandon Roots, the whole film has a naturalistic feel that really makes the pull-no-punches depiction of bullying extremely effective. Thompson does a great job, at never allowing his movie to become preachy or overly sentimental which, in turn, allows Charlie Plummer to give a performance that is the emotional equivalent of a punch in the gut. Plummer perfectly displays the overconfidence and inner turmoil that go along with adolescent self-discovery.

Yes, “King Jack” has, on the surface, a familiar feel. Fortunately though Thompson and his young star are able to make it something that really stands on it’s own. It is a heartfelt portrayal of growing up, and a debut film that shouldn’t be missed.




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