(UK/France/Belgium - 2017)
Directed by Fabrice du Welz. Written by Stephen Cornwell and Oliver Butcher. Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Luke Evans, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Natalie Martinez, Tom Felton, Jake Weary, Chris Mulkey, Dale Dickey, Tom Wright, Lucan Melkonian, Arthur Darbinyan, Diego Josef, Sibongile Mlambo. (Unrated, 103 mins)
Belgian filmmaker Fabrice du Welz made his name with 2004's CALVAIRE, his contribution to the then-popular wave of "extreme" horror coming out of France, which included films like Alexandre Aja's HIGH TENSION, Xavier Gens' FRONTIER(S), Julien Maury and Alexander Bustillo's INSIDE, and Pascal Laugier's MARTYRS. It was several years before du Welz returned with the mostly English-language "trip upriver as metaphor for journey into madness" horror film VINYAN, which bombed internationally and ended up going straight-to-DVD in the US. Du Welz took another extended break, returning with 2014's ALLELUIA, a grim chronicle of the same spree killers whose story was the basis of both the 1969 cult classic THE HONEYMOON KILLERS as well as the little-seen 2006 noir throwback LONELY HEARTS, and the crime thriller COLT 45, the latter of which is still waiting for a US release. With the Netflix Original film MESSAGE FROM THE KING, du Welz is working in America for the first time. A mainstream revenge thriller with echoes of THE LIMEY and TAKEN, MESSAGE focuses on Jacob King (42 and GET ON UP's Chadwick Boseman, soon to headline Marvel's BLACK PANTHER), who's just arrived in L.A. from Cape Town, South Africa looking for his younger sister Bianca (Sibongile Mlambo) after an urgent, garbled message that she's "in trouble" and has "something they want." Grilled by customs and with only $600 on him ("That's not much for a vacation," he's told. "I'll make it last," he replies), King pounds the pavement, first heading to Bianca's address only to be told by her hard-partying neighbor Trish (Natalie Martinez) that she vanished after her husband split, leaving Bianca to care for his 11-year-old son. Looking through some belongings Bianca left with Trish, King pieces together enough information to send him to Zico (Lucan Melkonian), a flunky for Ducmajian (Arthur Darbinyan), an Eastern European crime boss operating in SoCal. Armed with just a bicycle chain, King beats the shit out of Zico and some other goons, eventually learning that Bianca had a serious drug problem and was likely working as a prostitute. He makes contact with--and bicycle-chains--Bianca's drug dealer Frankie (a nothing bit part for former Draco Malfoy Tom Felton), and, from paging through Bianca's appointment book, gets some info from sleazy Beverly Hills dentist Dr. Paul Wentworth (Luke Evans) before finally checking out the morgue and identifying Bianca's body from an identical tattoo they each have on their right arms. He tells the attendant that the body is not his sister's, so needless to say, King is going full vigilante and making the guilty parties pay on his own.