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The Princess

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What it’s about:

A sociopathic suitor locks a princess in her father’s castle tower, but this princess isn’t content to sit around and wait to be rescued. She vows to escape, rescue her family, and thwart her capturers plan to takeover the throne.

Names you might know:

You may recognize lead actress Joey King from The Kissing Booth films. Dominic Cooper (The Preacher) is the villain of the piece, with some help from Olga Kurylenko, who you might remember as the face underneath the Taskmaster helmet in Black Widow.

Why it’s worth your time:
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

If you were to combine Xena: Warrior Princess with The Raid, you would have something like The Princess. As a fan of both projects, I enjoyed the mix. There are three things that I think make this film work: comedy, action, and the idiocy of the villain’s minions. Director Le-Van Kiet is no stranger to having a lead heroine who takes out multiple enemies. His 2019 film Furie featured a woman taking on a bunch of thugs who have captured her daughter. By the way, if you enjoy The Princess, I suggest you watch Furie too.

The plot is pretty basic and if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve pretty much got the idea. What’s unexpected is the sheer number of action scenes with a sprinkling of comedy. I wasn’t bothered by it. After all, I’m a fan of the martial arts genre and can easily spend my afternoon watching films like Ip Man or Fist of Fury. If you haven’t seen the trailer or any of the promotion for the film, all you need to know that there’s a princess (Joey King) who is captured by an evil man named Julius (Dominic Cooper). Since she’s next in line for the throne, he plans to marry her and take over the kingdom himself as king. It turns out he’s underestimated this particular princess, who breaks out of her tower prison and sets out to get her revenge.

How is this small-framed young woman able to take on so many enemies with such skill? There are flashbacks of the Princess’s training with her teacher Linh, showing how she can handle herself. The flashbacks are not overwhelming or overused, and they’re well-placed throughout the film.

There is not a lot of range in this Princess, but might have more to do with the script than what King brings to the role. What she lacks in characterization, however, she makes up for in athleticism. She does a lot of the stunts herself and when her stunt double steps in to perform some of the more elaborate moves, it’s seamless. King’s intense fighting faces add to the impression of difficulty in her battles. I would love to see behind the scenes of the film showing how the fight scenes were created.

As Julius, Dominic Cooper accomplishes his task of creating an annoying antagonist. I would’ve liked to have seen more about the character, maybe some background on what made him so mean. I like Cooper as an actor, and enjoy seeing his talents used to the greatest extent, but I get that he’s not the focus of the film. Julius’s second in command, Moira played by Olga Kostyantynivna Kurylenko, is intimidating and a great adversary for the princess and Linh. Her presence on screen is cold and commanding. Moira’s weapon, a customized whip, is one of the film’s best action props, especially when it gets an upgrade of razor-sharp blades, in a tribute to vintage martial-arts films.

The fight scenes are also martial-arts inspired. Setting them against the backdrop of a medieval castle makes for an interesting new hybrid. The camera angles place the audience in the middle of the action, but the shaky camera technique sometimes gets a little distracting. I do, however, like how the princess uses real-life fighting styles to take out her enemies twice her size, making use of objects and the environment around her.

Between the epic battles and the comedy—provided mostly by the muscle-headed villains with no common sense—I found the film to be more fun than I expected. This isn’t a film that takes itself seriously and doesn’t expect you to either. You will find yourself laughing and cheering for the princess to make it through to the end. The unlikely combination of direction, writing, and performances really make it work.

The takeaway:

The Princess is an unexpected, action-filled fairytale that pays tribute to the martial-arts genre centered around a tough heroine worth cheering for.

Watch it with:

Fans of martial-arts films or just any group of friends. You’ll have fun talking about the amount of butt the princess kicks. It would be even more fun if anyone in the group are fans of The Raid or Die Hard.

Worth noting:

While the premise of a captured princess rescuing herself sounds like something kids might enjoy, this film has a lot of bloody scenes and violence (and thus an R rating) so it’s not suitable for children.

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