Although summer has come to a close, the Orchard continues to bring the heat in Film with the important and impactful drama Kings directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven from our Film partner CG Cinema International S.A.R.L. Kings stars Academy Award winning actress Halle Berry in the role of Millie Dunbar who is a foster mother and Mr. Bond “007” actor Daniel Craig as Obie Hardison who is Millie’s peculiar neighbor. The story takes place in LA during the tumultuous period known as the Los Angeles Riots.
As many are aware, one of the direct causes of the riots was the acquittal of four LAPD officers who were caught on tape beating civilian Rodney King. What the viewer may not know, which the film points out right from the opening scene, is an incident involving grocery store owner Soon Ja Du who shot and killed high school student Latasha Harlins. Du mistakenly believed that Latasha was going steal a bottle of orange juice from her store. Du was given only a small fine and probation. The murder of Latasha and subsequent exoneration of Du on the more serious counts resulted in major cultural tension and hostility between communities. Futhermore, a number of observers feel that the spark of the riots emanated from this tragedy.
Under this fiery backdrop, we find Millie (Halle Berry) trying to take care and protect her foster children with the help of her eldest foster son Jesse Cooper played by Lamar Johnson. It is through Jesse that we meet the spunky Nicole Patterson played by Rachel Hilson who Jesse falls in love with instantly and tries to shield from unsavory characters. We are also introduced to another teenager, William McGee played by Kaalan Walker who Millie saves from being arrested by the police. Unlike Jesse who works hard making ends meet for the family, William’s approach is encouraging the younger kids to loot amidst the riots to gain the necessities for survival. William also has a strong liking for Nicole which creates conflict between William and Jesse. Meanwhile Obie (Daniel Craig), who at first is easily agitated and in conflict with Millie and her kids, has a change of heart after three of the children come to his apartment. One of the most enjoyable and surprising scenes in the movie is when Obie plays “I’m Black And I’m Proud” by James Brown to settle the kids down after shutting off the TV which had nonstop coverage of the Rodney King trial. Millie is shocked and relieved at the same time which changes the dynamic between Obie and Millie for the rest of the picture. There is an interesting dream sequence between them that is sure to floor the audience as it did Millie.
The turning point of the movie is when the characters learn that the four police officers get off which leads to all hell breaking loose around them. On one side is a surreal and split second moment involving William, Jesse, and Nicole which is not surprising given the trauma of the atmosphere. On the other, we have Millie with Obie’s help trying to find her younger kids who have wandered, not understanding the gravity of the situation.
Kings gives the viewer a snapshot of the Los Angeles Riots and shows how the community was coping in the midst of utter chaos through the movies’ characters. Kings is available digitally through iTunes and Amazon, on demand via your local cable provider, and in conjunction with Lionsgate, physically on DVD. As an added treat, there are trailers on the DVD of addition films distributed by The Orchard including Flower, The Hero, starring Sam Elliott, and The Dinner with Richard Gere and Laura Linney in the lead roles.