Call Her King (2023) Review
As Call Her King opens Judge Jaeda King (Naturi Naughton, The Night Before Christmas, Power) is having a bad day, she gets smacked around at her martial arts class and then her husband (Tobias Truvillion, Sanctioning Evil, Equal Standard) tries to join her in the shower which leads to a major argument. It doesn’t get any better after she gets to work, she overhears one of the other judges go off on a racist and sexist rant about her and the case she’s overseeing.
That would be the case of Sean Samuels (Jason Mitchell, Kong: Skull Island, Texas Killing Fields) who will be sentenced for multiple homicides. But moments after she passes a sentence of death, Sean’s brother Gabriel also known as Black Caesar (Lance Gross, House of Payne, Unthinkably Good Things), and his crew storm the courthouse.
Writer/director Wes Miller (A Day to Die, Hell on the Border) sets up a Die Hard like situation as King, Samuels, his lawyer Jerry (Nicholas Turturro, Escape from Death Block 13, Angels Fallen), and one of the guards, Stryker (Johnny Messner, American Siege, Breach), make it to a safe room. But Call Her King has a bit more on its mind than being a simple action film.
While the others are trying to make their escape, Gabriel is staging a trial of his own. He’s putting, Hawkins (Garrett Hendricks, Uncaged, off the Menu) the prosecutor on his brother’s case on trial. And some interesting revelations are going to come out about both Hawkins and King. And it’s not hard to some of those revelations in the context of recent headlines about the justice system, including ones about the US Supreme Court and conflicts of interest.
Miller does a good job of balancing the film between the two plotlines, never letting the courtroom scenes go on long enough to slow the film down before cutting back to the action. And, for a film made on a limited budget, there is a fair amount of well staged action. It would, however, have helped with the suspension of disbelief if King had made a better showing against her instructor, or if we had any reason to believe she was so skilled with a gun before she started taking out all manner of professional killers.
And what we find out about King and Hawkins raises obvious questions about both how fair Sean’s trial was and how the system works as a whole. Unfortunately, Miller somewhat undercuts his points by raising and then ignoring much of King’s complicity in the matter in order to let her be a heroic lead. It also shows up in a scene where she goes off on a character for leaving someone behind when just minutes before she had left both of them to fend for themselves.
Despite that, Call Her King does raise some points about the system that need to be addressed and the somewhat ambiguous ending raises still more questions about what it may take to address them, which is better than the kind of unrealistic feel good endings these films frequently have. Miller is acknowledging some problems don’t have an easy Hollywood solution as well as leaving an opening for a sequel.
Overall, Call Her King is an entertaining film that mixes some solid action with other more serious ideas and gives the viewer something to think about. Some problems with the script lessen the film’s impact in both areas, but as female fronted action films go it’s miles ahead of the likes of Sheroes and well worth a watch.