'The King Woman'

The Dahomey Amazons or Agojie warriors are a key piece in African history. This group of female soldiers were one of the most fearsome military forces on the continent. Far from raising a family or leading a common life, his only goal was to protect the kingdom of Dahomey, to serve his people and his king. That story is the one told by ‘The King Woman’, a film by Gina Prince-Bythewood starring Viola Davis.

The Oscar-winning actress plays Nanisca, the general of the Agojie army. An experienced fighter, Nanisca must train the new batch of warriors who aspire to become Agojie, including the young Nawi. In addition, the general will also have to do everything in her power to keep western settlers and slavers as far away from Dahomey as possible.

Pure adrenaline

The rhythm that Prince-Bythewood gives to ‘The King Woman’ is formidable. Despite being a dense story with many edges, the filmmaker has managed to capture exactly what the public is looking for in this type of film. Plenty of action, a good setting and some top-level heroines with whom to empathize. Thus, right from the start, the film does not skimp and offers multiple explicit and brutal battle sequences.

'The King Woman'

At Prince-Bythewood’s request, the actresses barely had stuntmen or stuntmen to replace them. Therefore, to be able to carry out each scene, they underwent intense military training for months in which, in addition, they learned to use and master the real weapons of the Agojie. Something that is evident on the screen because all the action, despite the inherent epic, also enjoys an exquisite component of authenticity. It must be added that the filmmaker herself looked for references in some of the great war movies in history, such as ‘Braveheart’ or ‘Gladiator’, as well as in real fighting and athletics sports.

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To the set he adds, on the other hand, the exoticism of the South African places in which the filming took place. The result is a violent and sensational spectacle that hits the viewer’s retina fully and rightly. Even so, the action is not the only thing that makes ‘The King Woman’ work.

'The King Woman'

More pros than cons

Once the epic cake has been revealed, the truth is that ‘The King Woman’ continues to have enough mechanisms to function without too many bumps. Especially well carried is her feminist message, precisely because she does not need to overexpose it. In an age marked by repetitive messages dominated by political correctness, the film goes even further without even trying. That of the Agojie is a true story, these warriors existed, it is documented and they were absolutely formidable. Therefore, it is not necessary to influence it over and over again, simply show them in all their splendor. It does not recreate itself in victimhood. And if someone doesn’t want to believe them, that’s their problem.

Even so, the needs of the dramatic framework mean that the film makes use of narrative tools that do not always go down so well. Aside from delirious and surreal moments derived from the epic genre itself (physical damage that stops hurting at any moment, for example), ‘The King Woman’ runs aground on unnecessary personal subplots. There are even surprising script twists that, without being a miss, could well have been avoided so as not to distract from the main thing, the incredible thing about these Amazons. It is evident that they are basic resources to move the story forward, but they are not necessary and sometimes they do not add up to what they should, lengthening the tape uselessly.

'The King Woman'

innate talent

What is worth highlighting is all the talent that exists in all those in charge of the film. ‘La mujer rey’ barely uses sets from a couple of African cities from the 19th century, and a few other natural locations. Even so, the great work of the artistic team makes the created universe seem very real and much bigger than it is. And, furthermore, Prince-Bythewood herself shows great mastery in balancing the few scenic resources available to her. With the spaces he has to play, he has plenty to pull all the strings he wants.

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If that is added to a cast of the highest level, there is no choice but to surrender to her. Viola Davis’s titanic effort results in an absolutely insane and brilliant role. Nanisca is one of the best action heroines that cinema has seen in many, many years. His mere presence on screen is overwhelming. And something very similar can be said of the rest of Agojie. Thuso Mbedu easily bears the responsibility of such a leading role and surrounded by so many stars. And Lashana Lynch is unleashed, leaving samples of unmatched charisma in each scene. Interesting is also the role of John Boyega as the king of Dahomey.

‘The King Woman’ is a rare bird of contemporary action cinema. Heiress to the most beastly war movies, it manages to tell an impressive story that is even more impressive for knowing that it is based on something real. Its cast is brilliant, and its frenetic and violent rhythm will make fans of this type of film enjoy it from start to finish.

Note: 8

The best: Its action and its cast, commanded by a stellar Viola Davis.

Worst: Some unnecessary subplots that completely cut the rhythm of the interesting main story.


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