This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
When filmmakers create action movies, they tend to go overboard. The bigger the effects, stunts and score, the better. However, as history taught us, it doesn’t always work. For his directorial debut movie, actor-turned-writer/director Kevin Grevioux decides to go for a better approach. He reigns in the action and ensures equality in both it and emotion in King of Killers, but what could work in theory doesn’t always work in practice.
As you might have guessed, King of Killers involves a…killer and probably more than one. After his wife Karla (Amy Groening) gets killed, ruthless assassin Marcus Garan (Alain Moussi) dedicates his life to taking care of his daughter Kimberly (Zoe Worn) instead of killing others. However, it’s clear from the get-go that he is just too good at what he does to live an everyday civilian life. When a man from Tokyo contacts him, his killer instincts kick in again. During a so-called contest, he must collect an immense 10 million dollars in prize money by taking out the most feared assassin, Jorg Drakos (Frank Grillo). While it seems impossible, Garan has no choice but to take it on as his daughter needs the money for her heart condition. Can he show that he’s the king of killers and save his daughter, or is a bullet coming for him soon?
Again, this story looks pretty straightforward on paper, but when watching King of Killers, it’s clear the movie’s having an identity crisis. There are too many problems with the plotline and the characters’ motivations to stay intriguing. When Karla gets killed, it doesn’t fire up Garan. We’re pretty sure he’s heartbroken, but he doesn’t immediately go hunting down who killed his wife. If you have the excellent skills of an assassin, wouldn’t you go out there and seek revenge? Apparently not.
Also, to get his hands on the money, Garan doesn’t only have to take on Drakos but also has to battle against six other assassins, who are all there for the same reason. What if Drakos is killed by the first killer he faces? What will the rest of the assassins do? That could have been a much better plotline, but the build-up to something great doesn’t have the intended effect.
What doesn’t help those big plot holes is the distracting editing by John Gurdebeke (My Winnipeg). The slick start has us on the edge of our seats. There’s the smooth editing, powerful fight scenes and testosterone, but then it becomes more brisk and uneven for some unknown reason. That editing might be okay during the fast-paced action scenes but not for the more emotional moments. Less focus on the transitions and much more focus on the characters could have helped this movie. We can say the same about the thrilling background score by Kevin Cronin (Hunter Hunter). It brings much life to the terrific action scenes but takes away from the emotion of the quiet and personal moments.
Because the filmmaker and his crew choose style over substance, this feature becomes a mess. Although, it’s a watchable one if you’re up for an entertaining movie or a fan of Grevioux’s graphic novel on which this film is based. That is mainly due to the exciting work of Grillo (Copshop). While his character motivations are extremely vague, he still manages to give Drakos a lot of personality. Grillo is bringing his A-game with a magnetic performance, which improves once the deadly contest starts.
He ensures that the intrigues, the murderous chess game, and all the double-crossing come through as intended. His supervillain might be more amusing than he’s dangerous, but that adds more fun to King of Killers. It’s such a shame that Grillo doesn’t have the backup from the other actors to lift this movie to a much higher level. The supporting characters are too one-dimensional to leave their mark on this film.
King of Killers doesn’t reinvent the action genre; it sometimes feels sloppy and razor-thin. The strong score and the commendable performance by Grillo are the redeeming factors, but they’re just not redeeming enough. If Grevioux wants to create a more alluring and exciting sequel – there’s room for that – he will need to make something better than this uneven, wanna-be John Wick movie.
King of Killers is currently playing in select theaters and is available on Digital and On-Demand platforms courtesy of Lionsgate.
King of Killers doesn't reinvent the action genre; it sometimes feels sloppy and razor-thin. The strong score and the commendable performance by Grillo are the redeeming factors, but they're just not redeeming enough. If Grevioux wants to create a more alluring and exciting sequel – there's room for that – he will need to make something better than this uneven, wanna-be John Wick movie.