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Movie Review: 'Royal Kill'

Don't go in that dojo: Lalaine and Alexander Wraith in the just ridiculously bad "Royal Kill."
Don't go in that dojo: Lalaine and Alexander Wraith in the just ridiculously bad "Royal Kill." (21St Century Films - 21St Century Films)

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By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 10, 2009

"Royal Kill" needs to be seen to be believed, but don't see it, under any circumstances. Don't even read this review.

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Last chance. Put it down.

No? Still want to rubberneck? Too bad. "Royal Kill" is not a train wreck. There's no grotesque thrill to its utter failure. It is, instead, some kind of cosmic hiccup. It should not exist. Yet here it is, playing in a real multiplex on a real screen with real actors, as if beamed in from some alternate bizarro dimension where down is up and wrong is right and 2 + 2 = 5.

Many people, including local crew members, have invested years of their lives to get this movie made and seen (it was filmed in 2005 entirely in D.C.). It takes blood and sweat to make a movie, even a bad one, and it feels unfair to stomp all over a passion project.

But "Royal Kill" is just so darn stompable.

It begins in the mountains of the fictional modern-day Kingdom of Samarza, tucked somewhere in the Himalayas. The brutal Skanji regime napalms the kingdom, killing most of the royal family. (We don't see the kingdom, or the family, and instead are given some vague narration and a faraway shot of explosions that looks like it was ripped from a video game.)

One member of the dynasty remains alive. That's because she's a teenage girl in Northwest Washington named Jan, unaware of her royal heritage. A Samarzan warrior journeys to D.C. to bring her back to lead her people. One problem: A Skanji assassin is also on the way, aiming to kill Jan.

Not a bad premise -- it's kind of like "The Princess Diaries" meets "Kill Bill" meets "Terminator 2" -- but the movie doesn't make one right turn. "Royal Kill" is essentially storyless. After the warrior gets to D.C., the rest of the movie is poorly choreographed gunfights and swordfights. The special effects look like they were created in Microsoft Paint. The movie is larded with artless dream and flashback sequences and purposeless flourishes (heartbeats, echoing voices, shoddily rendered slow-mo bullets). To top it off, the "twist" ending (pilfered from "Fight Club") is so ridiculous it will make your head explode.

Eric Roberts and Pat Morita have brief roles as, respectively, Jan's adoptive father and a man who resembles a senile Mr. Miyagi. Roberts has a couple of lines before he's dispatched by the Skanji assassin (played by WWE diva Gail Kim). Morita, in that great dojo in the sky, is probably glad he never got to see the project, since it's an affront to any movie that draws inspiration from martial arts or Eastern traditions. The Samarzan warrior is played by former model Alexander Wraith, who hasn't yet shed the blank, listless runway face. Jan is played by Lalaine, a former cast member on the TV show "Lizzie McGuire."

Apart from the deliriously bad filmmaking, the fatal flaw of "Royal Kill" is its refusal to focus on Jan. Instead, the movie is about the Samarzan warrior, who, over and over again, stashes the girl in safe spots before skirmishing with the assassin. Jan -- who could've been a symbol of maturing female power and a chance for Lalaine to draw on some Disney Channel pep -- is instead a whimpering teenager who can't fend for herself.

What's left? Utter bewilderment.

Royal Kill (70 minutes, at AMC Hoffman) is rated PG-13 for some violence.


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