King of Killers (2023) Review
With the possible exception of rock stars and professional athletes, hitmen have the worst record for staying retired. And the central character of King of Killers is certainly no exception.
Marcus Goran (Alain Moussi, Jiu Jitsu, Enhanced) was one of the best killers in the business until his boss Robert Xane (Stephen Dorff, Dead Man’s Hand, Paradise City) calls needing him to do a job on his anniversary. We see him trying to pull the job off intercut with his wife getting ready to go out later thinking he’s working late at the office. Then she gets a text, allegedly from him telling her to meet her at the club where he’s stalking his target.
By the end of the night his target is dead, and so is his wife. Now he’s retired and a single father to his daughter Kimberly (Zoe Worn). Even the offer of a ten million dollar payday can’t entice him back. Then Zoe suddenly falls ill and needs a heart transplant and he reconsiders. To claim the cash all he has to do is travel to Tokyo and kill Jorg Drakos (Frank Grillo, Justice League: Warworld, Boss Level), the legendary King of Killers.
However, when gets there he finds out that he’s not the only one Roman (Gianni Capaldi, The Lurking Fear, Among the Shadows) has recruited several other assassins including Andre LeCroix (Georges St-Pierre, Hitmen, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Asha Khanna (Marie Avgeropoulos, Dead Rising: Endgame, The 100) and Dyson Chord played by Kevin Grevioux who also directed and adapted King of Killers from his own graphic novel. And for a final twist, the man who hired them is Drakos himself.
Grevioux, who is probably best known for his contributions to the Underworld franchise, takes quite a while to set up a plot device that is almost as cliched as the hitman forced out of retirement is. A battle royal among the world’s best killers for ten million dollars and the title of King of Killers.
And nothing in that setup is particularly revealing leaving the characters a generic group of badasses with an assortment of killing styles. The villain is a total mystery and Marcus is close to it. Apart from his family situation, all we learn is that he and Asha have a history in the bedroom and on the battlefield. Bet you didn’t see that coming.
Thankfully, once things get started the violence is plentiful and bloody. First time stunt coordinator Ryan Tarran (Aquaman, Occupation: Rainfall) has a solid group of action veterans to work with and he stages some impressive brawls. He’s helped by cinematographer Paul Suderman (Sniper: Rogue Mission, Toys of Terror) who uses comic book styled lighting through much of the final act to reinforce the feeling Grevioux is trying to achieve.
Unfortunately, the lack of investment in the characters doing the fighting makes it hard to care as the minor characters get picked off. We know who will end up fighting Drakos and can predict many of the events along the way. And while the identity of the killer of Marcus’ wife isn’t revealed until the last minutes, their identity is obvious from the moment you meet them. There is a major twist near the end, but it feels more like a lead in to a sequel than anything else.
Some well staged action sequences are wrapped up in an extremely tired plot with characters that are almost too underdeveloped to even be called generic. If those scenes are all you care about then King of Killers may work for you. But so would pro wrestling, and it has better developed characters.
King of Killers is available on Digital Platforms via Lionsgate.