The co-writer of Monster’s Ball and Birth. The director of the odd, American gothic documentary Wisconsin Death Trip. As expected, the team-up between Milo Addica and James Marsh is ripe fruit, thick with biblical subtexts and steaming with sin. Hefty? Think Vegas-era Presley. But this substantial soup largely works thanks to lean, integrated plotting and plum casting. Gael García Bernal is properly tough-to-know as Elvis, a sailor and prostitute’s son who leaves the navy to track down his long-lost father, David Sandow (William Hurt, superb). Dad, however, is a reformed pastor and family man who finds the return of his repressed kid “inconvenient”, a rejection Elvis doesn’t take well.
What follows is full of twists, which we won’t give away. Suffice to say, it plays like a richly layered Badlands for Bush’s US, in which innocence and experience meet in a creationist America, and in which sins don’t wash away easy. And with a DVD packed with an engaging natter from the writer and director duo, it rewards extra viewings.
Sure, this tightly stuffed Bible-belt allegory buckles at the mid-point, as Addica and Marsh bite off more than they can chew. Instead of croaking on the john, though, it’s redeemed by a stinging finale that sustains the theme of sins that stick. Elvis has left the building, but in its hot, heady stew of allegory and complex character study, The King fully deserves to live on DVD.