‘King Of Killers’ (2023) Review: Style Over Substance Weakens Frank Grillo Starrer Film

There is a tendency for action films to go overboard, especially with the kind of special effects they have at their disposal these days. The good thing about the new movie King of Killers is that it keeps the fight sequences well within the emotional confines of the story. Yet, somewhere in the flow of the story, the punch of the fight sequences is taken away. Written and directed by Kevin Grevioux, who also plays an important role in the film, King of Killers is primarily a story about Marcus Garan, a family man who also happens to work for an organization in the capacity of an assassin. When his wife, Karla, is killed, he hangs up his boots and dedicates himself to taking care of his daughter, Kimberly. It’s clear from the get-go that this consummate assassin is just too good at his job to be left alone in his civilian life. Soon, a man from Tokyo contacts him, asking him to do a final job and collect a whopping 10 million dollars in prize money. Is this a seal of approval that Garan is indeed the King of Killers? From whom is this approval coming?

Marcus Garan had it all. He killed with ease and even made time for some snuggles with his wife. He is a dashing man with a chiseled jawline. He told his wife he was a salesman, and it seems like she bought the lie. Maybe here, his double life and the fact that he was a cold-blooded killer could have affected him a bit more. Or us, the audience at least. On the wedding anniversary, they had plans to go out, but Marcus’ boss, a man named Robert Xane, called him for yet another hit. Being a consummate killer, Garan chose to complete the job. He had to be quick, keeping in mind that Karla was waiting back home. Garan could have refused Xane, but it didn’t take much convincing. Maybe he wanted to kill or was afraid to refuse Xane. Someone messaged Karla to go to the very place where Garan was doing his dirty job. This is where she died. This was the first big moment of King of Killers. But the problem with this plotline is that it didn’t immediately set anything off. It didn’t take our protagonist, Garan, to the next big event. It did so only indirectly. Who killed Karla? That should have been his next big quest, and there is no reason he should have postponed it.

There are some heavy hitters in King of Killers, apart from Alain Moussi, who plays Marcus Garan. Stephen Dorff plays Robert Xane, who immediately raises the intensity of a scene with just his eyes and that gravelly voice. When Garan gets called to a “contest,” it turns out he has to take out Drakos, one of the most feared assassins in the world. This was the ‘job’ that could get him the big bucks. Garan had accepted the job only to save his daughter Kimberly, who had a heart condition, which Garan couldn’t afford treatment for. The plot is simple to follow, but the motivations are sketchy. Then, the need of the story became to try and do everything to ensure Garan couldn’t back out. There were six other killers, apart from Garan, who were fighting for the prize. The game was based on luck, as the killer who got to go up against Drakos had the chance to take away the prize. If Drakos got killed by the very first killer, what were the rest supposed to do? There was a moment when the ‘battle royale’ model of death matches was on the cards, but it suddenly got scrapped. All these fluctuations in the story did not help the film.

Drakos, played in his unique and formidable way by Frank Grillo, is exciting, but again, his motivations as a character are razor-thin. Does he have a death wish? What will he really gain by being declared the best assassin of all time? We just have to accept at face value that he simply wants to end the debate about who the best killer is, a debate that perhaps we, the audience, were not privy to. Once the story was set and the death matches began, Kevin Grevioux’s direction really stood out. The space was perfectly utilized, and the pacing of each scene was gripping. It is his understanding of feeling trapped that he managed to put on the screen. Where he seemed to falter was in directing the actors. Grillo and Dorff are at their A-game, but Moussi falls flat against them. His character did a fist bump with another assassin when he arrived in Tokyo. The details of the high-stakes life of an assassin were missing.

The overall editing of King of Killers didn’t leave the plot with smooth transitions, except when the death matches began. The slick beginning suddenly became brisk in its pacing, which only complemented the action sequences and not the emotional ones. There was a suggestion that Garan was remembering his life choices just moments before his death at the beginning of the film. When we arrived at that scene again, the callback didn’t really feel fulfilling. The editing choice shouted ‘style over substance.’ The movie is based on the graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux himself, and it must have been his choice to contrast the scenes with the red, green, and blue tint. Although they look good, the oversaturation is somewhat distracting.

The background score by Kevin Cronin did quite the heavy lifting. Every scene was almost scored so as to not lose momentum. The movie could have had some extended moments of silence, where the dread of dying at the hands of Drakos could have been made more palpable. Kevin, who is primarily an actor, has made his directorial debut with King of Killers, and it’s a decent start to his directorial career. There is a promise of many more action thrillers to come. The ending surely hinted at a sequel. The world-building will perhaps get better, and the characters of Garan and Xane will be explored more in the coming films. Until then, all we have to ponder over are the questions the film very teasingly left us with.

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Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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The good thing about the new movie King of Killers is that it keeps the fight sequences well within the emotional confines of the story.'King Of Killers' (2023) Review: Style Over Substance Weakens Frank Grillo Starrer Film