King Jack Review – Moving Portrayal of a Bullied Life in Rural America

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King Jack, from Whitewater Films and Buffalo Picture House, brings to the screen the story of how lives in a small southern town interweave and the inescapable class ceiling that fits airtight over the disenfranchised.

King Jack, written and directed by Felix Thompson, stars Charlie Plummer, Cory Nichols, Christian Madsen, Danny Flaherty, Erin Davie, Yainis Ynoa, Scarlett Lizbeth, Chloe Levine and Melvin Mogoli.

King Jack begins with Jack, our wanna be stud of a ‘tween, lanky, an outcast, living in the shadow of his older brother, Tom, played by Christian Madsen, spray painting a choice word on the garage door of his nemesis. Tired of being bullied, he decided to take matters into his own hands and let the world know.

Unfortunately he is caught, seen actually, and the bully, Shane played by Danny Flaherty, hunts him down as he seems to everyday and tortures him. Today however is Friday, the last weekend before school is out for the summer, and our stud-in-waiting Jack, is trying to work out a way he can maneuver past the trio of bullies, talk with the girls, secure a nod, wink, glance or hope of genuine interest and make it out alive.

The best laid plans of course, the bullies catch him, torture him in front of the girls, who fortunately have a Florence nightingale instinct and want to help, and well two out of three and he makes it home, alive.

Another day in small town, rural southern America. Today they get a message, Jack’s cousin, Ben, played by Cory Nichols, that he rarely sees needs to spend the weekend as his mother had an episode, a kind word for checked into the mental hospital for evaluation.

Now Jack feels responsible for his cousin, Ben, a chubby cute little guy, sad, quiet and really doesn’t want to be anywhere near this tiny hamlet of a town in the middle of who knows where.

Jack’s mom Karen, played by Erin Davie, doesn’t wield much control over Jack. Even in his poised on the edge of troubled teen status, there’s not much he can do in this one stop sign town that no one will find out about. Believing in his own anonymity, he has stayed just this side of trouble more out of fear than invitation.

Today, forced on orders of mom to be interested as Ben shows up, the two are doing adolescent things, playing baseball, riding bikes, discovering hidden secrets in local garbage until the town bully, Shane, again steps in to ruin everything.

The two are on the run with the hope of making it to the girl’s house where suddenly a boring boy’s day becomes “truth or dare” with parts becoming the general dare and ‘have you?’ the truth.

Shane and his trio of bad news bullies, show up at the girl’s house causing a fast getaway. By the end of the afternoon, Ben is taken hostage and pelted with paint bullets, Jack runs away scared for his life, Tom rescues both and send a strong message to Shane and his buddies.

The three bound by this terrible day stay quiet. As Jack is genuinely a nice kid, he hasn’t learned the art of deception, especially when the sultry voice of his affection calls and whispers a sweet invitation.

So needless to say, Jack finds himself in a bad, very bad, situation as the bullies mean business. Which is when out of nowhere, Ben, fresh off the pelted with paint balls afternoon wallops Shane with a commanding force and rescues Jack who once again was physically beaten badly this time by the town bullies.

King Jack presents bullying in a very raw form. Jack is a slight, lanky, thin, kid with no dad. His father, who knighted him with the name "King Jack" as he would ride him on his shoulders, died. The family struggles, unprepared financially and emotionally for the loss, the burdens, heaviness, the lack becomes unbearable

To the filmmakers credit the realities of modern American, entrenched effects of the economic recession in rural communities, are shown and the truth of life with the picture of hope dimming as the brighter future fades to black. The airtight glass ceiling that sealed a percentage of the population’s fate is effectively presented. Life is limited and it is shown.

King Jack held its world premiere at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival where it took the top audience award winning the 2015 Narrative Feature Award. King Jack was also a selection for the Little Rock Film festival. 

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