The Antoine Fuqua directed version of King Arthur is 10 years old. On release it was gutted, the closing battle so badly censored that it’s literally the same footage re-cut and re-used twice. It was also, at the time, eviscerated critically, because that’s what the industry leaders in film criticism often do; scrabble to be the first to be as creatively unpleasant to a movie that doesn’t fit their definition of what constitutes good as fast as humanly possible.
Then, six months later, when they’ve got over themselves and it’s out on DVD, critically re-evaluate it.
The fallacious nature of a lot of criticism aside (Big words! Can tell I’ve had my coffee this morning, huh?), it’s a movie that’s become more rewarding over time. The Director’s Cut, which as I understand it, is the only one available is infinitely nastier, smarter and better than what theater audiences were subjected to. More importantly, the entire principle cast reads like a Who’s Who Of Really Interesting And Good Character Actors With Their Best Work Still Ahead Of Them.
Not a catchy title I’ll grant you, but bear with me.
Clive Owen is always good value and Kiera Knightley is clearly having immense fun as a resolutely competent and massively violent Guinevere, even under often deeply ludicrous and immensely impractical costumes. Further down the cast list you get Ioan Gryffudd as a surprisingly nuanced and troubled Lancelot, Ray Winstone as a gloriously violent, feral Bors and Ray Stevenson in a star making turn as Dagonet. Stevenson in particular has cornered the market in decent, troubled, big men and his turn as Titus Pullo in Rome is still one of the all time greats. His Dagonet is infinitely more reserved and ultimately, far more affecting.
Then there’s Joel Edgerton, whose turn in Warrior remains one of the best central performances to go unawarded I’ve ever seen and Stephen Dillane, the future Stannis Baratheon, as Merlin. They even throw in Stellan Skarsgård in a rare, and hugely fun, physical turn as the villain, Cerdic.
Oh and you also get Hugh Dancy as Galahad and Mads Mikkelsen as Tristan. Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter, as Knights of the Round Table. You’re welcome, tumblr. (SPOILERS AND POSSIBLE CULINARY HORROR GALORE BEHIND THAT LINK! DANGER WILL ROBINSON!)
This is a ridiculously stacked cast with physical presence to back up their emotional authority and they do excellent work throughout. The best scene by far though, is the one below. Look at Stevenson and Winstone in particular, the group’s two older members and how their reaction differs from many of the younger guys. It’s a beautiful scene from an under-appreciated, bloody knuckled scrapper of a movie and it’s this week’s Sunday Moment of Zen.