..

KING DAVID

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Richard Gere, Edward Woodward, Alice Krige
Director: Bruce Beresford
Audio: Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: None
Length: 113 Minutes
Release Date: November 18, 2003

Film **

A lot has been made about director Mel Gibson's upcoming film entitled The Passion of Christ. The film, which is set to come out next year, is an account of the final hours of the life of Jesus Christ leading up to his crucifixion. Needless to say the film, like all films having to do with a shred of anything that is biblical related, has come under fire from several religious groups. To be totally honest, I have faith in Mr. Gibson as a director and feel that he can do the material justice, which is something the makers of King David forgot to do with its biblical tale.

You will note that Biblical epics were hugely popular during the late 50s and early 60s. Films such as King of Kings, The Ten Commandments, and The Greatest Story Ever Told were living proof that Hollywood could do the Bible justice. And it goes without saying, King David doesn't belong anywhere near those films.

I am in no way a religious fanatic. In fact, I don't even object to Hollywood poking fun at religion (see my review for Dogma), but I do feel that if one is attempting to adapt a legendary tale for the big screen, it should be done with a level of authenticity and respect for the story told. It's hard to think that such a talented director like Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies, Evelyn) could manage to make a near-wrecking of such a story.

Then there's the case of Richard Gere in the lead role. I've always found Gere to be a very good actor with some decent range. His masterful work in movies such as The Cotton Club,  Primal Fear, Unfaithful and even The Jackal, which I thought was unfairly panned by the critics, show that Gere is almost always on top of the game. However, King David represents a low point for the actor. Throughout the movie, all that I gathered from Gere's performance as David was that of sleepwalking. I came to the conclusion that the actor, an outspoken Buddhist, may have just been in it for the pay and not for the performing.

And yet, you may be asking yourself why I am sounding this harsh on a film I am only giving two stars to. That's only because I haven't revealed the one positive thing about this film's production, which is the quite stunning cinematography by Donald McAlpine. The veteran cinematographer, whose credits include Predator, Moulin Rouge! and The Edge to name a few, illuminates the screen with lush images and visions of set pieces that make for the only convincing aspect in the film, in terms of making something real out of a legendary tale.

It's just too bad that King David as an entire film couldn't achieve the same level of quality that Mr. McAlpine was able to present with his grand cinematography. My guess is that the makers felt confident in that they had a decent enough budget and a notable and somewhat bankable star in Gere to hope that audiences would buy into this somewhat unaffectionate misinterpretation.

King David should be valued as a good attempt at retelling a biblical tale, but by no means should it be mentioned at the same level of much better biblical motion pictures.

Video **1/2

Paramount's anamorphic presentation is decent enough given the fact that the movie happens to come from the mid 80s, but at the same time, I've seen better from the studio. For the most part, McAlpine's cinematography is captured nicely and looks good. However, there seems to be a few instances of shoddy images and softness here and there, which keep this from being up there with the usual top quality releases from the studio. Indeed, a mixed reaction.

Audio **

Since there's only a 2.0 track offered for this release, it makes me question whether this release was deemed necessary for one by the studio, not that I blame them. For all the numerous battle sequences (many of which don't last but a mere minute or two) all of the action seems to be limited to the front area. Dialogue is very clear for the most part.

Features (Zero Stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

It goes without saying that King David shouldn't be viewed if you're looking to catch up in your Sunday School class. The beautiful scenery and cinematography serve as the only reasons to watch it.