Generally unfavorable reviews - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 37
  2. Negative: 13 out of 37
  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. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    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. Reviewed by: Staff (Not credited)
    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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  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. 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.
  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. As Willie Stark, Sean Penn demonstrates how a great Method actor can make the world’s most unconvincing rabble-rouser.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Overstuffed and fatally miscast, All the King's Men never comes to life.
  24. 40
    Penn gives a strenuous, at times shrewd and acid performance, which has been embedded, unfortunately, in a clumsy and ineffective movie.
  25. 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.
  26. 38
    Lethally dull and self-important remake.
  27. Yet even the language, finally, becomes as inauthentic as the accents.
  28. 33
    The movie's more damnable problem is it irrelevance.
  29. Despite an A-list cast and director, it's astonishing how bad this movie is.
  30. 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.
  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. 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.

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