This may all sound wearily familiar, and that’s because it is exactly that. From Terence Malick’s Badlands to Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, with the Elvis obsessions of Tony Scott’s True Romance thrown in for texture, no ‘killer lovers on the run’ motifs are ignored. Little in Kill the King is particularly original, or interesting for that matter, as the pair lurch from one random situation to the next. They visit Jack’s abusive father, hook up with his childhood friend and generally mooch around on their haphazard journey towards Los Angeles. An opening montage reveals details of the couple’s past and upbringing but serves only to give their personalities a sense of cliché rather than depth. If you were going to write a few lines making up the background of some serial killers, this is likely what you’d come up with.
The best moments in the film come from Ron Livingston’s Elvis. Ignoring the affectations so common in many caricatured performances, Livingston instils a rare vulnerability into the character. These scenes are sadly few and far between, but provide the only real pockets of interest and often feel lifted from an entirely different film altogether.
The real issue with Kill the King is the distinct lack of charisma from the leads. Kit and Holly, Mickey and Mallory, Clarence and Alabama; there was a dangerous attraction, at times a reprehensible coolness to these characters regardless, or because of, their actions that reluctantly engaged you. Here, despite the best efforts of the leads, Jack and Karen fail to rise above being routinely ordinary.
In his debut feature, writer and director Eddie O’Keefe has ambitiously strived for, yet struggled to develop or demonstrate any real individuality. He has attracted a strong cast – including Burt Reynolds who provides a detached voiceover that offers little – but seems undecided between making a faux-exploitation road movie or an out-and-out crime thriller. What remains is a confused narrative that is too disjointed in nature to provide a way in for audiences. And in the final act there is a scene so contrived as to make you groan out loud. Disappointing.
KILL THE KING / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: EDDIE O’KEEFE / SCREENPLAY: CHRIS HUTTON, EDDIE O’KEEFE / STARRING: ALYVIA ALYN LIND, EMILY BROWNING, ASHLEY GREENE, BURT REYNOLDS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW