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In 1930s Louisiana, the ambitious and hard nosed Willie Stark (Sean Penn) is elected Governor on a populist ticket. His running team comprises his bodyguard and friend Sugar Boy (Jackie Earle Haley), a journalist from an aristocratic family, Jack Burden (Jude Law), the spineless lobbyist Tiny Duffy (James Gandolfini) and Willie's oft-betrayed mistress Sadie Burke (Patricia Clarkson). When influential Judge Irwin (Anthony Hopkins) supports a group of politicians in their request for Stark's impeachment, Stark assigns Jack to find some dirt on Irwin, which ends in a triple tragedy - and the unraveling of secrets - both personal and political.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Taking its inspiration from populist 30s Louisiana politician Huey Long, All the King's Men is a robust and detailed telling of Long's last days. But some casting decisions are questionable: Anthony Hopkins is always great but disconcerting here as an ageing Southern Judge and Sean Penn is not an obvious choice for the theatrical and expansive Huey character, rechristened Willie Stark in the book. To give you an idea, the 1949 movie version had Broderick Crawford as Willie Stark. Penn's speciality is internalising, not externalising.

And whether James Gandolfini's character as Willie's deputy is accurate or not I can't tell, but it's played way too oafishly for my liking.

While some of the film is an engaging drama - even without considering its political relevance - some of it overwrought and all of it overlong. The characters are allowed to breath beyond the confines of the politics; indeed, the script makes sure that the actions and motivations are clearly identified. Perhaps one area where this isn't successful is the final act when Stark is accused of corruption. It could have been more satisfyingly handled.

If you have never heard of Huey Long, none of this matters very much. Kate Winslet and Jude Law, not to mention Mark Ruffalo in a small but crucial role, deliver fine performances (though with wildly varying accents). As the extras on the DVD show, there is a solid basis to the story, and not least, that of the real Huey Long; this may not be the best version, but it has some redeeming features.

Published April 26, 2007

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(US, 2006)

CAST: Sean Penn, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, James Gandolfini,

PRODUCER: Steven Zaillian, Ken Lemberger, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer

DIRECTOR: Steven Zaillian

SCRIPT: Steven Zaillian (novel [1946] by Robert Warren Penn)


EDITOR: Wayne Warhman

MUSIC: James Horner

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Patrizia von Brandenstein

RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes

PRESENTATION: 1.85:1, 16:9 enhanced;

SPECIAL FEATURES: An American Classic, about the author and the novel; The Legend and Lore of Huey Long (on whom Willie Stark is based); 3 behind the scenes featurettes; deleted scenes, alternate ending

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: April 11, 2007

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