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  King Maker, The The King And I
Year: 2005
Director: Lek Kitaparaporn
Stars: Gary Stretch, John Rhys-Davies, Cindy Burbridge, Dom Hetrakul, Nirut Sirichanya, Yoe Hassadeevichit, Akara Amarttayakul, Oliver Pupart, Mark Sobels
Genre: Action, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 1547 and the place is Siam, where Portuguese mercenary Fernando de Gama (Gary Stretch) has been washed ashore from a shipwreck. He stumbles into the forest in search of sustenance, but before he has the chance to eat or drink he is captured by the army who plan to sell him into slavery. He's not going to take that lying down and makes good his escape, employing his kickboxing skills to subdue his pursuers, but it's not quite enough. Luckily, he falls at the feet of local nobleman's daughter Maria (Cindy Burbridge), who takes him under her wing...

At last, you think, the biopic of the lower tier Britpop 10 Years Asleep hitmakers, but no, it's actually one of the first films from Thailand to be filmed in English, which on this evidence was a major mistake. At least when you watch films in a foreign language you can believe that the acting is appropriate to their native country's style, but when the cast attempt getting their tongues around some tricky words and phrases they're not used to, the results can be embarrassing. Curiously, the same applied here to Englishman Stretch's acting, which came across as if he was either practicing his dramatic pauses or was genuinely unsure of what he was saying.

And indeed unsure of where he was; luckily the actor playing former Miss Thailand Burbridge's father was John Rhys-Davies - no, wait, he was obviously just there for a nice holiday, as he tackled the project with a permanent scowl as if gritting his teeth to get through the work with the minimum of discomfort. So with that lot making for shaky leads, and the rest of the cast mangling the English language, what was there to enjoy about The King Maker? Well, it's not all about Fernando and his love life, so we also had a parallel plot that saw the King of the territory (Nirut Sirichanya) take on an invading army (of which Fernando was meant to be part) and then fall foul of more domestic strife when his wife, the Queen (Yoe Hassadeevichit) wished to replace him with a younger model from his own court.

Needless to say, any scene with a lot of dialogue was a chore to get through, but as if to acknowledge that the film presented a few full-blooded action sequences to distinguish it, complete with a multitude of extras all whacking each other over the head during battle. Stretch got to show off his boxing and martial arts skills in a small handful of choice fights, but not enough to distract you from his uncertain methods elsewhere, the trouble being that the moment anyone opened their mouths to speak it was strictly amateur hour. For some this could be endearing, especially if you liked to attend school plays, but for the rest of us it did nobody involved any favours as the proceedings quickly descended into farce, though the drive for spectacle would admittedly catch the eye - it was a colourful production for all its shortcomings elsewhere. It's just that it was hard to imagine many tolerating its dubious quality for long. Music by Ian Livingstone.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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