A surefire means of losing a game of chess is to make moves so easily predictable that your opponent can guess what you’re going to do before your hand has even touched the rook and moved it to E6. Not unlike the way director Jake Goldberger telegraphs all of Life of a King’s emotional and narrative beats and allows the film’s story to be constrained by its central chess metaphor. The way the filmmaker tells it, real-life ex-con turned community do-gooder Euguene Brown (Cuba Gooding Jr.) was a fountain of chess-is-a-blueprint-for-life truisms: there are rules to the game; you have to think before you make a move; you have to have an end game in mind; and so forth. After being released from prison, Eugene opens a community chess center for the underprivileged students he meets at the local high school where he works as a janitor. While teaching the students who come to his center, he grabs the king off the board and declares, “This is the king. The king is your life. One mistake and it can be taken.” These words are followed by a gunshot and a cut to one of the members of his chess club losing his life as the result of making a bad decision; the montage underlines the truism of Eugene’s words, and to a risible degree. In this dully competent gene splice of Stand and Deliver and your average hackneyed sports drama, which might be destined for rotation on the Disney Channel if not for its high-school-students-as-small-time-drug-dealers subplot, any potential flights of invention or creativity are subordinate to the plain and emphatic delivery of life lessons.
- Millennium Entertainment
- 100 min
- Jake Goldberger
- Jake Goldberger, David Scott, Dan Wetzel
- Cuba Gooding Jr., Dennis Haysbert, LisaGay Hamilton, Malcom M. Mays, Richard T. Jones, Carlton Byrd, Kevin Hendricks
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