Star-studded cast doesn’t deliver on film’s potential

By Stacie Wieland

“All the King’s Men” is based on Robert Penn Warren’s 1946 novel of the same name. It tells the story of Willie Stark (Sean Penn) — a man with ideals who dreams of a life where the government will work for the good of the people and not toward its own selfish ends.

Stark’s anger and frustration reflects that of the hard-working Louisiana citizens, and it’s no great surprise he is voted into office to help purge the state of the greed and deceit that runs through it. However, power, as they say, corrupts. And Stark is no exception.

The audience is taken through the film by Jack Burden (Jude Law), an ex-reporter who does the bidding of Stark. In this way, one is able to watch the sordid state of affairs from afar. While it is an interesting position to be in, Burden’s personal life makes the journey exhausting.

Memories from Burden’s past are excessive and unnecessary, even after the purpose is revealed. As talk of Stark’s impeachment begins to circulate, Burden’s connection to his Godfather, Judge Irwin (Sir Anthony Hopkins), an influential man who could convince others to stop the impeachment, is exploited.

This leaves Burden with the decision of choosing between his job and his family. It leaves one wishing the film focused more on dirty politics and less on Burden’s connection to Stark’s prey.

For a film that has so many A-list stars, one would think there would be a good story behind it. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. While the rise of Stark shows the true power of the people, it could be wrapped up in a History Channel special.

Although the corruption of a good man is intriguing, in this day and age, where the abuse of government powers can be seen all around the world (for free, no less), there has to be more to hold a person’s interest in a two-hour film.

Penn is the only thing that keeps this movie afloat. With his southern drawl, wild hair and pure charisma, he is able to portray a man whose magnetism is undeniable.

Stacie Wieland is a movie critic for the Northern Star.