Review by Brian Lowry, CNN
For anyone wondering why “The Princess” is premiering on Hulu in the US, not sister service Disney+, the movie answers that in the first five minutes, when the title character brutally dispatches a pair of guards sent into the tower where she’s being held. While the timing seems right for a princess who rescues herself, there’s precious little substance to this violent fantasy, featuring Joey King figuratively letting down her hair.
Director Le-Van Kiet brings plenty of action and a degree of visual style to this slightly claustrophobic concept, which takes place almost entirely within the confines of that castle, as the princess fights her way through an assortment of obstacles and foes who are much, much bigger than she is.
How she’s able to do that is explained via flashbacks, but the film isn’t overly preoccupied with plot or details, other than the fact that the psychopathic suitor the princess jilted (played by Dominic Cooper) and his primary henchwoman (“Quantum of Solace’s” Olga Kurylenko) are utterly ruthless and willing to kill anyone who interferes with their plans, including the princess’ family.
The movie does possess a certain sense of humor, but it’s mostly expressed in a cartoonish manner, such as the overweight guard who spends an inordinate amount of time huffing and puffing his way up the tower stairs, or a swift kick to the groin that proves surprisingly ineffective.
The film does represent an unorthodox stretch for King, certainly compared to her last prominent work for Hulu in the limited series “The Act.” The only other significant part belongs to Veronica Ngo (“The Old Guard”) as her tutor in the fighting arts — lessons conducted without the knowledge of the King — which only modestly bolsters the story’s feminist sensibilities.
While the movie does race by at 90-some-odd minutes, it’s hard to discern precisely for whom this was intended, since the action — grisly as it occasionally is — feels relatively small in scale, while being too hardcore to play much beyond that audience base. In that sense, it has the look of another Fox release that corporate parent Disney (understandably, in this case) didn’t quite know how to handle marketing-wise.
Not that the world can’t use a butt-kicking princess right now, but it would have helped to deliver one armed with a wee bit more substance than this.
“The Princess” premieres July 1 on Hulu in the US, and as a Star Original on Disney+ internationally.
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