30 April 2018 | dave-mcclain
"Kings" is a personal window into the lives of average people during one of the most upsetting and violent moments in recent American history.
"Kings" (R, 1:32) is a crime drama, with romantic undertones, written and directed by award-winning director Deniz Gamze Ergüven (2015's "Mustang"). Although the title is never really explained, the film is about a family of foster kids in South Central Los Angeles who struggle to deal with endemic racial discrimination - and to survive the L.A. riots following the 1992 Rodney King beating trial verdict.
Oscar winner Halle Berry stars as Millie Dunbar, a foster mother who loves children and has a special place in her heart for troubled kids. She has a house full of them - boys and girls of different races and ages. She loves all of them as if they were her own and she works multiple jobs to take care of them. That last part means she's often away from home, and care for the younger ones often falls to her oldest, Jesse (Lamar Johnson). Jesse is intelligent and responsible, but he struggles against the instincts of his short-tempered best friend, William (Kaalan "KR" Walker), and a short-tempered neighbor, named Obie (Daniel Craig), who complains about Millie's parenting - and the noise coming from her house.
The film uses a re-enactment of the fatal March 16, 1991 shooting of teenager Latasha Harlins by an L.A. Korean convenience store owner and news of the shooter's conviction, but subsequent sentence of probation, to set the stage for the events to come. As frustration in the black community builds, the film's plot remains focused on Millie's make-shift family and their relationships with their friends and other members of their neighborhood, including Obie. When it is announced that the police officers who beat Rodney King on the night of March 3, 1991 have been acquitted, rioting begins. Millie's kids are involved in the mayhem in various ways and she fights to find and protect them, with Obie helping her.
"Kings" is a personal window into the lives of average people during one of the most upsetting and violent moments in recent American history. Although fictionalized, the story is nevertheless affecting and the film is dedicated to one of the young men who lost his life during the riots. Some of the plot points feel contrived, but the film's effective at delivering greater understanding of and compassion for those affected by the L.A. riots - and the issues that led up to that episode - some of which clearly continue to plague society today. "B+"