'Call Me King': Film Review
R.L. Scott's indie crime drama concerns a violent gang war involving gun runners.
There's no shortage of ambition on display in R.L. Scott's indie crime thriller, which he wrote, directed, photographed and even choreographed the fight sequences. Featuring too many characters and subplots to keep track of during its overlong running time, Call Me King too often interrupts its action for lengthy conversational digressions about the properties of bourbon, the philosophy of chess and relationship issues.
The primary plot involves Haitian brothers Rhyis (Amin Joseph) and Khalil (Maurice Whitfield), now living in Los Angeles after the fall of their dictator father Knight's (Shawn Mixon) regime. Along with two others, they've formed a gun-running gang called "The Strap Set," which also serves as enforcement for the local Italian crime boss, Angelo (Chris Mulkey).
When Angelo decides that Rhyis will be his anointed successor instead of his own son (T.J. Hoban) — "I'll be the first black man in history to run an Italian syndicate," the heir apparent boasts — it sets off a violent chain of events involving a wide variety of characters including the brothers' long-absent father; a Korean arms dealer (Bai Ling); a female criminal mastermind (Monyque Thompson Scott) and her forbidding bodyguard (Lester Speight); and Knight's former associate, the elderly Malachi (veteran actor Bill Cobbs), who now acts as Rhyis' mentor.
If that description sounds confusing, it's no less so than the actual film, for which you practically need a scorecard to follow. But despite the filmmaker's indulgence in far too many windily portentous speeches, Call Me King boasts an undeniable visual flair, with the frequent bloody action sequences photographed and edited for full comprehension.
The film also earns points for its diverse, multi-racial cast (the production notes inform us that no less than nine languages are spoken in the film, ranging from Farsi to Mandarin) and for the intense performances by the actors who've clearly spent considerable time at the gym. And while there's no shortage of macho behavior — including one of the lead characters answering his phone mid-coitus as his girlfriend gyrates frantically on top of him — the abundance of strong female characters is a refreshing departure from your typical testosterone-heavy action film.
Production: Dark Energy Pictures
Cast: Amin Joseph, Bai Ling, Chris Mulkey, Bill Cobbs, Gabrielle Dennis, Jonathan "Lil J' McDaniel, Alimi Ballard, Robert Miano, Lester Speight, Sean Riggs, Monyque Thompson Scott, T.J. Hoban, Shaun Mixon, Del Zamora, Maurice Whitfield, Johnny DeBeer
Director/screenwriter/director of photography: R. L. Scott
Producers: David A. Fisher, R.L. Scott
Executive producers: Amin Joseph, Geno Taylor
Composer: Darren Wonnocott
Casting: Theo Caesar
Not rated, 118 minutes