0489 | King Jack

This debut indie coming-of-age tale by first-time writer-director Felix Thompson may cover plenty of familiar ground – small town, whispy folk soundtrack, masses of lens flare – but that shouldn’t detract too much from its notable plus points: it has charm, it has things to say about the cyclical nature of bullying and it also includes an impressive central performance by Charlie Plummer, previously seen in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Plummer’s apparently friendless character Jack cuts a forlorn figure for most of the film: his single parent mother is frustrated by his petty teenage acts of rebellion (smoking, drinking, swearing) while his older brother – still living at home – picks on him, in the way that older brothers tend to do. The girl Jack likes at school gets him to text naked pictures of himself so that she can show them to her classmates, while his biggest problem is local bully Shane (Daniel Flaherty), who routinely beats him up with the aid of a couple of fellow dickheads. There’s a cruelty to the bullying here that makes witnessing the acts quite upsetting, particularly as it’s carried out by bigger, seemingly older teenagers – Jack’s younger cousin comes off worse –  though Thompson cleverly keeps the reason for it hidden until later on in the film, and it’s hard to judge Shane once all the information is available. Inevitably Jack eventually stands up to the aggressor, though there’s less of a triumphant victory over the bully than might be excpected, and the main character needs the very different protection offered by two adults (his brother, a policeman) to get through the movie intact. If there’s a message here it’s that people act a certain way for a reason, and in order to establish their place in society some kids can’t resist the temptation to lord it over those who are younger and weaker than themselves. I suppose King Jack is less a coming-of-age tale than a brief snapshot of teenage small town life, with only minor changes to Jack’s life by the end, but given that the narrative only covers a few days that’s perhaps more realism than most teen dramas tend to offer. A little short, but worth a look, if you like this kind of thing generally, and Thompson’s feel for his characters marks him out as a director worth keeping an eye on.

Directed by: Felix Thompson.
Written by: Felix Thompson.
Starring: Charlie Plummer, Cory Nichols, Christian Madsen, Daniel Flaherty, Erin Davie, Chloe Levine, Yainis Ynoa.
Cinematography: Brandon Roots.
Editing: Paul Penczner.
Bryan Senti.
Running Time:
80 minutes.

Comments 12

  1. movieblort March 9, 2016

    Sounds interesting, even though it looks quite short with not a lot happening. Did you ever see Hellions with Aaron Paul? That was a really decent coming of age type of movie, very subdued. Really enjoyed that.

  2. Tom March 10, 2016

    Nice one man. As far as small independently-produced films about bullying go, I think this one sounds much better than this one thing I recently checked out (it was more horror than drama, of course) — Some Kind of Hate. Ugh. It had a noble cause but the execution was so aggressively in-your-face you couldn’t really feel anything but indifference come the end. And there is a distinction, I think, from feeling numb and feeling indifferent.

    • Stu March 10, 2016

      I haven’t heard of that one – sounds like it is worth avoiding?! This is a much softer film, very much a Sundance kind of movie – in fact I think it came directly out of workshops at the festival, so you can probably guess the style just from that.

      • Tom July 13, 2016

        Random flashback! I knew it was your site I saw a review of this movie on. Just noticed this has surfaced on Netflix so will be checking it out later, thanks for the signpost!

        • Stu July 13, 2016

          Ah, well remembered! Enjoy it mate. It’s not great but it’s not a bad little film either.

      • Jordan Dodd March 10, 2016

        Doubt it will make it here, not many films do… if its indie then it almost certainly won’t come here unless it makes a ton of money. I’m amazed at how many newer movies you are able to write about cos we never have much variety playing. Only the big movies, a select few of the smaller ones. I’ll keep an eye out though

        • Stu March 10, 2016

          It’s the same here; I watched it at home, streaming, as it only cost me £4 and was available the same day it came out in cinemas. If I’d have gone to see it in London on the big screen it’d have cost me £14 for the train ticket and then the cost of admission on top of that…a no brainer as I’d have to travel far to see it. Worrying future for cinemas, really – every multiplex within 100 miles of my house…excluding those in London…pretty much show the same films as one another, and 60%/70% of them are either shit or films that aren’t aimed at me (Alvin and the Chipmunks, etc.)!

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