KING OF THE ANTS - 2003
Anthill Productions, The Asylum, Hecht Co., Red Hen Productions
Rated: Germany: 18 / Norway: 18 / UK: 18 / USA: R
The answer is no.
I want to make sure we're on the same page here so let me tell you up front. There
are no giant ants in this movie. There are no ant-human hybrids or ants
that do human bidding or government trained super ants. I say all this
because the director is Stuart Gordon (RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE, STUCK) and if you put his track record with that title, it's easy to jump to conclusions.
KING OF THE ANTS was written by Charlie Higson, based on his own
novel. It begins with a young ne'er-do-well named Sean (Chris McKenna: CEMENT) painting a house. The electrician, Duke (George Wendt: HOUSE, "Norm!"), shows up and the two strike
up a conversation that ends with Duke saying he may have some work for Sean.
Sean to shady construction company owner Ray Mathews (Daniel Baldwin: PAPRAZZI)
and Ray asks Sean to follow someone for him.
Sean seems like a truly bad choice for a job like this. He's a complete amateur and
he doesn't even have a car and is forced to try and follow his target
around on his bicycle (not completely impossible
in L.A. traffic). The man Sean is following is a city accountant
named Eric (Ron Livingston: CAMPFIRE TALES). This goes on for
days and the only interesting thing about it from Sean's point of view
are occasional glimpses of Eric's beautiful wife Susan (Kari Wuhrer: ANACONDA, EIGHT
One day Sean even follows Susan instead of Eric and finds out she runs
a homeless shelter.
The situation becomes more serious when Sean reports to Ray that Eric has been talking
to a local TV news reporter. Ray asks Sean to kill Eric.
which was an odd and interesting turn for the movie to take. Sean is the
"hero" here but he's not a nice guy. The man he murders has
a wife and daughter and is a complete innocent, who Sean kills purely
for money. The whole murder sequence feels very real, with Sean nervous
and terrified and with Eric taking a while to die. It was gory and grim.
Then Sean goes to collect his money and it turns out Ray doesn't feel like paying.
Sean, who is an innocent himself in a way, is naively sure of himself
and unaware how out of his depth he really is (although
we, the audience, saw this coming down Fifth avenue). Duke tells
Sean to get out of town but Sean says he has the files Eric had been showing
to the reporter. So Ray has Duke take Sean out to the ranch.
This is only about a third of the way through the movie and the story moves pretty
fast (I usually judge that by how far I am into
a movie before I look at the timer to see how much is left). And
what happens at the ranch is more well done gory and grim. Ray decides
killing Sean would be a little too risky, so instead he decides to bash
him in the head until he turns into a mumbling moron. This is done a little
at a time, almost like an experiment, sometimes by Ray and sometime by
Duke or by one of Ray's other two goons.
Sean's descent into madness is rough. He frequently hallucinates, often seeing fantasy
images of Susan. At this point in the movie I was ready to use phrases
like "dark thriller" and "four shriek girls."
But then whatever magical convergence had created such an interesting beginning
ended and the rest of the movie was steadily more formula and illogical
and dumb. There were still cool moments here and there but I was checking
the timer a lot through the second half.
Talking about formulas, by the way, makes me want to have a
There is a standard plot device in thrillers involving turning on the
gas on a stove and either leaving a candle burning or waiting for someone
to light a match and thereby blow up a house in a huge fireball. Very
dramatic and it would sort of work. It's just that it would take hours
for the house to fill with gas this way, not the mere minutes that's usually
what I have to do next even harder, because I so wanted to like this movie.
But the mess of an ending was really annoying, which is why I can only
give KING OF THE ANTS two shriek girls.
copyright 2005 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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