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The Independent Critic

Billy Campbell, Alex Russell, Thushari Jayasekera, Alex Frost, Haley Ramm, Portia Doubleday, Lorenzo James Henrie
Philip G. Flores
Philip G. Flores, Max Doty
93 Mins.
Breaking Glass Pictures


 "Almost Kings" Review 
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Originally released on the film festival circuit as The Wheeler Boys, Almost Kings captured the Netflix Find Your Voice Film Competition on its way to a highly successful run before being picked up for a home video release beginning June 12th with those purveyors of indie greatness at Breaking Glass Pictures.

Almost Kings is quite accurately described by some as a grittier version of a John Hughes film, a richly portrayed journey through the lives of everyday teens just trying to fit in and struggling quite a bit along the way. Ted (Lorenzo James Henrie) is a struggling high school freshman in a small California town living with his abusive, paralyzed father (Billy Campbell), a man so embittered and dark that it's impossible to not see how he screwed his kids up. Also in the household is Truck (Alex Frost, Elephant), Ted's older brother and the quintessential high school football star. To earn the respect of his elder brother, Ted starts hanging out with Truck's group of friends known as "The Kings" and finds himself participating in their secret contest of trying to have sex with the most freshman girls. Tested by The Kings at every turn, Ted becomes increasingly seduced by popularity and his growing confidence.

Ted's about to learn, however, that popularity and acceptance always come with a price.

Co-written and directed by Philip G. Flores, Almost Kings works well largely on the strength of the chemistry and layered performances of Alex Frost and Lorenzo James Henrie. Flores avoids the common cliche's so often found in this type of film, instead painting balanced and believable portrayals of these brothers with all their strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities and lighter moments. Alex Frost, who largely came to public attention in Gus Van Sant's marvelous Elephant, is simply terrific here as the elder brother who is much more than you could possibly imagine.

Henrie, as well, never loses that sympathetic edge with Ted, an edge that is vital throughout the film in holding our attention and keeping us invested as his life somewhat deservedly spirals. Billy Campbell is mostly horrifying as their father, a man whose physically damaged body is inflicted upon his sons in more ways than one. Campbell believably portrays what could have easily been turned into a caricature, instead embodying him with dark yet layered humanity. Haley Ramm, Portia Doubleday and Alex Russell also do a solid job in supporting roles

In addition to winning the Find Your Voice Film Competition, Almost Kings was the opening night film of the Los Angeles Film Festival and also had screenings at Cleveland International Film Festival, Ashland Independent Film Festival, Starz Denver Film Festival and BendFilm Festival. It's big prize, no doubt, was the Netflix win that enabled it to reach a wider audience courtesy of free screenings with Netflix. Now, it's preparing to come home to Breaking Glass Pictures for its home video distribution.

Peter Golub's original music fits the film quite nicely, while Bradley Stonesifer's camera work is pristine while never becoming so pristine that the imagery overwhelms the film's emotionally resonant story.

For more information on Almost Kings, visit the Almost Kings page at Breaking Glass Pictures.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic