All the King's Men


Generally unfavorable reviews - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 37
  2. Negative: 13 out of 37

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Critic Reviews

  1. Zaillian (an Oscar winner for his "Schindler's List" screenplay) has given us an intricate, subtly rewarding narrative whose uncompromising nature and undeniable moral seriousness make it far from business as usual, even in the ever-decreasing world of quality Hollywood filmmaking.
  2. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    You can, if you will, think of All the King's Men as a purely political parable, but that is to miss its blackest, bleakest meanings.
  3. 63
    We never see enough of the small compromises Willie Stark makes on the way up to fully grasp the tragedy of his fall. Some will undoubtedly find Penn's hamboned, spittle-lashing performance a bit much, but it's a pretty close to Warren's original conception.
  4. Some performances carry a picture, this one bench-presses it. Sean Penn's work here is so mesmerizing, so intense, so guaranteed to put him front and centre when Oscar reads out the nominees, as to almost obscure the multiple failings of the misguided movie around it.
  5. All the King's Men hasn't been directed so much as over-directed, although the result, when you make an effort to filter out all the film school pyrotechnics, is an honorable run at Robert Penn Warren's classic novel.
  6. 60
    A frustrating experience. It's beautifully shot, acted and designed, but there's little cohesion in the story. Maybe one day we'll see a better cut, but for now this is a sadly fumbled opportunity.
  7. 50
    Those familiar with the novel will undoubtedly agree that reading it is a more satisfying experience than watching this disappointing film. One expects more - much more, in fact - with a cast of this caliber.
  8. Audience can certainly find entertainment in this movie, so long as no one takes things too seriously. One suspects, however, that Zaillian and a vast team of producers and executive producers that includes political consultant and pundit James Carville believe they are making a serious commentary on American politics. It comes closer to kitsch.
  9. As the corrupt, populist Louisiana governor Willie Stark, Crawford was such a swaggering behemoth that it would take Godzilla to upstage him. Sean Penn isn't quite that.
  10. The new production is handsome and offers a few riveting moments, but it's basically a botched job that misses all the impact of both the original movie and the 1946 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren that inspired it.
  11. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    You can't help but have high expectations from Zaillian and this stellar cast. But the result this time is a thuddingly tedious soap opera.
  12. Failures on the scale of writer-director Steven Zaillian's All the King's Men are as rare as falling sequoias, and they make a noise even if no one's in the woods to hear them. This sequoia is very noisy indeed.
  13. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    I'm not the first observer, or even the second, to liken the star's (Penn) portrayal of fictional Louisiana governor Willie Stark to the late John Belushi's impersonation of Joe Cocker.
  14. In essence, a wild soap opera disguised as a political allegory, it's a movie, with its over-the-map performances, that is worth catching only for the inadvertent laugh or two.
  15. 50
    The problem is that so little in this version of All the King's Men speaks to the here and now or even speaks clearly. It feels like a repertory exercise -- and not a very successful one at that.
  16. 50
    Comes up short in many ways, but none more so than its failure to fulfill Penn's and Zaillian's desire to provide the catalyst for political sea change.
  17. The film isn't dreadful: it is just generally disappointing.
  18. Writer-director Steven Zaillian's version stultifies, especially when compared with Robert Rossen's fiery 1949 Oscar winner. How could such dullness defeat the retelling, when Willie Stark is one of the most vivid characters in 20th-century American popular culture?
  19. 42
    Everyone from the ensemble appears to be acting in a different picture. Zaillian strands them all.
  20. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Overstuffed and fatally miscast, All the King's Men never comes to life.
  21. As Willie Stark, Sean Penn demonstrates how a great Method actor can make the world’s most unconvincing rabble-rouser.
  22. Penn goes for larger-than-life, wrapping his pinched frown around an unintelligible Louisiana drawl and swinging his arms like an autistic evangelist... Law is no asset--looking rather sadly like John Ireland (the actor who played the 1949 Jack Burden), he has little control over his accent and zero energy.
  23. 40
    Penn gives a strenuous, at times shrewd and acid performance, which has been embedded, unfortunately, in a clumsy and ineffective movie.
  24. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    This stiff-in-the-joints movie has little feel for its setting or period, and crucial chunks seem to have been left on the cutting-room floor. Robert Rossen's Oscar-winning 1949 version has nothing to fear.
  25. 38
    Lethally dull and self-important remake.
  26. Yet even the language, finally, becomes as inauthentic as the accents.
  27. 38
    Overthought, overwrought and thuddingly underwhelming, this high-profile misfire makes a congealed gumbo out of Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer-winning 1946 novel and the Oscar-winning 1949 movie that followed it, sinking a classy cast in the goo.
  28. 33
    The movie's more damnable problem is it irrelevance.
  29. 30
    I'd take almost any colorful-character shtick over the gloomy gravitas that settles over All the King's Men early on and never leaves.
  30. Despite an A-list cast and director, it's astonishing how bad this movie is.
  31. 30
    Nothing in the picture works. It is both overwrought and tedious, its complicated narrative bogging down in lyrical voiceover, long flashbacks and endless expository conversations between people speaking radically incompatible accents.
  32. The unfocused story is so bereft of any clear sense of period or location that the political melodrama sometimes seems to be taking place inside a cigar box.
  33. Kathy Baker, as Burden's elegantly sodden mother, shows the only sign of interpretive life in this stiff-jointed enterprise. She has about five minutes on screen; she's lucky that way.
  34. 25
    A handsome, sincere, well-meaning bore.
  35. Recalling the earthiness Broderick Crawford brought to the original, I couldn't help thinking Gandolfini should have been cast as Willie.
  36. 20
    Both the performance and the movie around it are virtually incomprehensible.
  37. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    What a botch. All the King's Men, a remake of Robert Rossen's classic 1949 film about the rise and fall of a Southern demagogue, has no center, no coherence, no soul and no shame.
User Score

Mixed or average reviews- based on 53 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 22
  2. Negative: 7 out of 22
  1. AlanN.
    Dec 10, 2007
    I agree with Dave W's comment that too many critics were "hung up" on the original 1940's movie. I haven't seen the original, I agree with Dave W's comment that too many critics were "hung up" on the original 1940's movie. I haven't seen the original, nor read the book that inspired both pictures, but I thoroughly enjoyed this movie in its own right. It's not "brain in the fridge" stuff, far from it and all the better for that fact. Sometimes a movie should demand something from the audience and if you take the time to immerse yourself in this one, you'll be rewarded with some fine acting performances and storytelling. Recommended. Full Review »
  2. ChadS.
    May 26, 2007
    All the King's Men is a phenomenal movie, end of story. It's not action packed or full of comedy, but it is a very serious and well All the King's Men is a phenomenal movie, end of story. It's not action packed or full of comedy, but it is a very serious and well done film, which is something most teens don't enjoy watching these days. It stars Sean Penn, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, and Kate Winslet, and all of them do an extremely good job, especially Sean Penn as Willie Starks, the mayor. The story is about one man's rise to being the mayor of Louisiana and giving the people what they need, new roads, bridges, schools etc... and not allowing the large companies to steal all their money. The plot and characters are well thought out, and its no wonder the book won the national Pulitzer prize. The directing is the best i have ever seen, and I've been watching a TON of movies lately, but this one beats them all. Everything about All the King's Men is good, however i can't say that many teenagers will like it since it isn't a horror movie, or action flick, or comedy, but if you are looking for a serious film then this is perfect for you. On a scale of one to ten, five being average, All the King's Men gets a 9.25. Full Review »
  3. SeanF.
    Jan 27, 2007
    This is one of the all time greatest movies I've seen. The only unfortunate thing is that it has ruined my opinion of critics for This is one of the all time greatest movies I've seen. The only unfortunate thing is that it has ruined my opinion of critics for eternity. Some of the actors didn't pull off being Southerners very well, but that was the only flaw I observed watching this film. A great depiction of a populist's rise to power, and the inevitable coming together of the wealthy and powerful to stop him at any cost. Full Review »