'The Princess': Joey King Slashes Her Way to the Top (Movie Review)

Before Joey King betrayed her way to the top in Bullet Train, she gave a strong and effective performance in The Princess. Released on Hulu earlier this summer, this breezy and bloody action movie stars King as the titular princess, who needs to prove her worth to even her father by killing anyone who stands in her way. Although nothing about the story is creative and the script gets a little overstuffed at the end, director Le-Van Kiet and King provided a stylish action movie that is a silly way to kill 90 minutes.

The plot for The Princess is so threadbare that writers Ben Lusting and Jake Thornton forgot to give King's character a real name. The Princess, as she's simply referred to in the credits, begins locked up in a tower after Julius (Dominic Cooper) staged a coup to take control of her kingdom and plans to marry her for a show of legitimacy. The Princess' father, creatively named The King (Ed Stoppard), refused to name her heir because she's a woman and thought Julius was a good dude. Of course, The Princess knew better and she rejected his hand. In response, Julius locked up The King, The Queen (Alex Reid), and their younger daughter Violet (Katelyn Rose Downey) and locked The Princess away until he marries her.

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(Photo: Simon Varsano/20th Century Studios)

Much of this backstory really plays out in flashbacks, interspersed between the well-choreographed fight scenes that are underscored by overblown music from Natalie Holt. Indeed, the first half of the film plays out much like Die Hard-in-a-castle, and it's quite a fun start. However, this leads to an overstuffed third act, as if Lusting and Thornton thought too late that they didn't have enough and didn't fully buy into having a simple, one-sentence plot. "Captured princess kills people to save her family from a tyrant" just wasn't enough for them. It would be fascinating to see how different the film's momentum would have been if we were introduced to The Princess at an earlier time in her life instead of starting off by watching her kill guards in progressively more creative ways.

King, who also served as an executive producer on the film, really dives into the character, even if she doesn't have a name. She brings a mix of humor when she isn't in the middle of swinging a sword, so much so that you wish she had more lines to deliver during the fighting. Cooper also excels in prime scenery-chewing as the villain, and Olga Kurylenko is fun to watch as Julius' villainous right-hand woman Moira. Veronica Ngo plays The Princess' close friend and inspiration, Linh. The casting is great, too, as there is diversity in the King's castle, and that's actually mentioned in one of Julius' early speeches.

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The Princess is a fun watch, even if it doesn't break new ground in the action movie genre. It puts a format we're used to seeing in a modern-day setting in a medieval realm though, which gives the story just enough juice to highlight the sexist rules leaders lived by in the past. If The King had a son, he probably wouldn't have to go on a henchmen murder spree to become heir.