The premise of The Princess makes for an awesome trailer, but a lousy movie. When you watch that two-minute trailer, it looks like a lot of fun. Then you see the whole film and realize it's the same stuff you've already seen, repeated over and over and over. Even at a relatively brief 94 minutes, I found myself feeling relieved when it was done because the monotony became oppressive.
Joey King plays the title character. (She's never given a proper name.) When we first meet her, she's locked away in a castle tower. Two very bad dudes come in, and it's clear they have lascivious ideas in mind. The Princess is no damsel in distress, though. Using advanced fighting techniques, she dispatches of both men in bloody fashion. Flashbacks reveal that she was placed in that tower by Julius (Dominic Cooper), the man she was supposed to marry before deciding at the last minute that an arranged marriage wasn't something she could go through with. Julius responded by usurping her king father's power and taking her captive. Another flashback reveals how the Princess was taught the art of fighting by two martial arts experts.
With that in place, The Princess follows its protagonist as she makes her way down the tower and through the castle to confront Julius. At every turn, there are evil henchmen she has to punch, kick, stab, sword fight with, and brutally slay. That's it. That's the movie. There's no plot, just a scenario in which sweet, innocent-looking Joey King fights a succession of generic bad guys in a room, then in a stairwell, then in a corridor, and so on. After 90 minutes, an atrocious cover of Billy Idol's “White Wedding” plays on the soundtrack as the credits roll.
That lack of plot is what kills the movie. Nothing happens. We're supposed to care about The Princess because, well, she's the central figure. Very little about her personality is revealed. She's merely a killing machine. Julius is no better. He got stood up at the altar and lost his chance at the throne. Okay, so what? The film never fills in these gaps or places these characters into a story that deepens our knowledge of who they are and why they behave the way they do. One-dimensional people in a repetitive scenario is an expressway to boredom.
To her credit, Joey King performs the interchangeable action sequences with enthusiasm and credibility. She clearly trained very hard to look authentic onscreen. That does not mitigate the fact that those action scenes look and feel alike after a while. Worse, nothing about their conception or staging is new. We've seen seen violent mayhem just like this in dozens of other movies. Director Le-Van Kiet brings no fresh ideas to the table. The first two Kingsman pictures did it much more successfully.
King's reasons for making The Princess are obvious. She's never had a role like this before, so it affords her an opportunity to show a different side to audiences. I don't blame her at all. Otherwise, the boring, bloody chaos – unsupported by character and plot development – lets this talented actress down at every turn.
out of four
The Princess is rated R for strong/bloody violence, and some language. The running time is 1 hour and 34 minutes.