KING JACK(USA/TBC/81mins)
Directed by Felix Thompson. Starring Charlie Plummer, Cory Nichols, Christian Madsen, Danny Flaherty, Erin Davie.
THE PLOT: Teenage delinquent Jack (Charlie Plummer) seemingly has the run of the run down American town in which he lives. Although he is often confronted by bullies, he is not afraid to get his own back, and spends his time drinking, smoking and texting pictures of himself to the popular girls. When his aunt falls ill and his cousin Ben (Cory Nichols) is sent to stay with the family, Jack is put in charge of looking after the younger boy, and although friendship cautiously blooms between the two, the bullies return to get in the way.
THE VERDICT: ‘King Jack’ is a quiet, small kind of film that not only examines the cyclical nature of bullying and abuse, but the toll taken on a young teen when his father is not around and his mother is disinterested. Charlie Plummer seems to inhabit the role of Jack entirely; making him angry and sullen, but with a softer side, one that he has to keep hidden in order to survive. Cory Nichols plays Ben as a quiet pre-teen who is obviously in awe of his older relative, but capable of great anger when things go wrong. The rest of the cast features Christian Madsen, Danny Flaherty and Erin Davie.
Felix Thompson’s screenplay essentially examines the first time in Jack’s life when he has to take care of someone or something other than himself. The dialogue is sparse, with exposition cleverly handled, and enough information given that Jack’s motivations are clear and understandable. As well as this, the screenplay quietly examines that rush of first love, first kisses and the thrill of the illicit.
As director, Felix Thompson allows ‘King Jack’ to ramble slightly, while still making the themes of the film shine through. The cast are well directed and, although there are times when some characters are infuriating, this is all to the benefit of the film. Some sub-plots disappear without warning however, but the film is well paced and mostly engaging.
In all, ‘King Jack’ is a look at the life of a young teen in a small town, as well as the nature of bullying and redemption. Charlie Plummer is strong in the leading role and the breathless feel of first love and false bravado flow through the film as a whole.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

King Jack
Review by Brogen Hayes
4.0King Jack Rules!
  • filmbuff2011

    Felix Thompson makes an impressive debut with King Jack, a tough but equally tender coming-of-age film set in smalltown America.

    Jack (Charlie Plummer) is a teenager who just can’t stay out of trouble. Often bullied by older kid Shane (Danny Flaherty), he taunts Shane which doesn’t help the situation. Jack’s mother assigns him the task of looking after his younger cousin Ben (Cory Nichols) for a while. He’s family, so Jack has to protect him. But Jack’s wayward ways soon put him into greater conflict with Shane. At the same time, Jack is also trying to negotiate attention from girls – one of whom just ignores him and another who is more interested in him…

    Growing up is not an easy thing to do, given that it involves negotiating the tricky waters on the border between childhood and adulthood. Particularly in smalltown America, where adult supervision seems to be lax. That may be a directorial touch on behalf of Thompson, who keeps adult characters to a minimum. He’s much more interested in capturing the pain of adolescence, the cruelty of teenagers and the tenderness of first love. 15-year-old Plummer does a wonderful job here as Jack – he has that boyish charm and scrappiness of Matt Dillon and Leonardo Di Caprio. Curious trivia: his onscreen first kiss was his actual first kiss, which makes that particular scene all the more authentic.

    Beautifully shot by Brandon Roots, this is an evocative film that captures that youthful feeling of a never-ending summer, as well as the power of friendship and the first steps towards adulthood. It’s a remarkably assured debut by writer/director Thompson and is another fine example that American independent cinema can be every bit as good as world cinema. Highly recommended. ****