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From Andy Warhol’s iconic pop art series to the Elvis Presley impersonator at Jackrabbit Slim’s in Pulp Fiction, “The King” is a beloved cultural icon. In Kill the King, first on Showmax, he’s also in the crosshairs of two unhinged lovebirds who are on a quest to assassinate the king of rock ’n roll.
Set in the 1970s, this faux documentary stars Australian actress Emily Browning (who you may recognise from her award-winning role as the plucky Violet Baudelaire in the film Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) as a troubled young woman, Karen, who falls dangerously in love while doing a stint in rehab.
The object of her affection is Jack (played by a tousled Luke Grimes, who recently appeared in American Sniper directed by Clint Eastwood), a character best described as deranged. He believes that his dead mother appeared to him in a drug-fuelled trip, and instructed him to travel to Los Angeles to kill his hero, Elvis Presley.
If this sounds a bit like Natural Born Killers, you’d be right. It’s a tale of sex, guns and violence, shot in a dreamy and surreal documentary style (narrated by Burt Reynolds – you read that right) complete with gritty flashbacks to Karen and Jack’s troubled childhoods.
Ron Livingston (world-weary Peter Gibbons in 1999’s cult classic Office Space) plays Elvis, who by the mid-70s is a shadow of his pelvis-thrusting, pantsuit-wearing self, stumbling through his latest tour. It’s hard not to feel sympathy as the faded icon attempts to summon a spark of his former stage magic. Livingston also does a great job of not over-forcing the Elvis personation, leaving it at the King’s distinctive drawl and no more.
Trivia: this is actually the fourth movie in which Emily Browning plays a character who has been institutionalised. Look out for her performance in The Uninvited (2009), Sucker Punch (2011) and God Help the Girl (2014).
Kill the King was released in the US as Shangri-La Suite, which is the original working title used by director-writer Eddie O’Keefe and co-writer Chris Hutton, who have been collaborating since they met at the American Film Institute in LA.
In an interview with HungerTV.com, O’Keefe said: “We wanted to do a Badlands/Bonnie & Clyde sort of old school, lovers on the run, pulp, romance thing. I wanted to make something that felt cool and old-fashioned, violent and sexy and bold and young and brash.”
The film does indeed come across as grainy, nostalgic and littered with Americana: blue jeans, dusty Cadillacs and highway motels. To enhance the feeling, O’Keefe and cast released a 12-track playlist to accompany the release of the movie.
“[We] titled our film Shangri-La Suite because we wanted it to feel like a suite of music; like some warped, wild, rockabilly dirge. Instead of focusing on the pillars of plot and character, we aimed to explore the feeling, the musicality of our story,” said O’Keefe.Here’s the playlist for Kill the King:
- One Night — Elvis Presley
- I Want You — Bob Dylan
- Last Kiss — Frank J Wilson and the Cavaliers
- I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times — The Beach Boys
- I Found A Reason (Demo) — The Velvet Underground
- Little Bit of Rain — Karen Dalton
- Half-Breed — Cher
- California Dreamin’ — The Mamas and The Papas
- Nights in White Satin — Moody Blues
- Cool Summer — Bob Lind
- Girl From The North Country — Link Wray
- Hurt — Timi Yuro
If you love Quentin Tarantino’s True Romance, which also features an Elvis-obsessed character at its heart, and enjoyed Natural Born Killers, you’ll want to add Kill the King on Showmax to your watchlist.
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