Thursday, August 31, 2023

King of Killers, Starring Frank Grillo and Alain Moussi

If Jorg Drakos were more like big tech or big unions, he would just bribe politicians to regulate his competition out of business. Instead, the notorious assassin plans to personally usher his rivals into an early retirement. Should any hitman survive his unlikely tournament, they win 10,000,000 dollars. That money would help Marcus Garan care for his sick daughter, Kimberly, but Drakos might also hold some answers regarding the murder of Garan’s wife in Kevin Grevioux’s King of Killers, which opens Friday in New York.

After his wife’s untimely demise, Garan walked away from contract killing, but he needs money fast for Kimberly’s heart surgery. According to mystery man Roman Korza’s initial pitch, Garan was supposedly hired to kill Drakos. Then he discovers Drakos has set up this little assassin convention for his own satisfaction, to decide who is really the best of the best. He has lured them to a Tokyo highrise (it looks more like a mid-sized building in Cleveland, but whatever), which he tricked-out with secret mirrors and traps. The idea is the draw numbers to face him, like the Minotaur in the labyrinth, one by one, but Garan quickly figures out they need to break the rules to survive.

King of Killers
(that’s Drakos’s nickname) is based on Grevioux’s graphic novel, but the narrative itself is pretty straightforward, in a meatheaded kind of way. However, it builds to an improbable twist ending that implies some extraordinarily irresponsible risk-taking. Nevertheless, it clearly teases an intended sequel that I would be totally down for.

Despite its moronic attempts at cleverness,
King of Killers still has some terrific fight scenes. Frankly, this is probably Alain Moussi’s best showcase since the underappreciated Kickboxer reboots. He definitely has the right chops for Garan. Likewise, Frank Grillo chews the scenery spectacularly as Drakos, who is way more amusing than most shadowy super-villains.

Plus, Georges St-Pierre, Marie Avgeropoulos, and Grevioux himself add their big, colorful screen presences as Garan’s more or less friendly colleagues, Andre LeCroix, Asha Khanna, and Dyson Chord. However, Stephen Dorff is completely wasted as Garan’s agent Robert Xane, who is mostly just heard over the phone during his limited screentime.

King of Killers
is a mess, but it is a rewatchable mess. It might have logical issues, but Grevioux has the good sense to let Moussi and Grillo play to their strengths. His film really is a lot of unpretentious, bone-crunching fun. Recommended for Grillo and Moussi fans when it hits streamers, King of Killers opens Friday (9/1) in New York, at the Cinema Village.