Call Her King


‘…offers punch-ups and gunplay, and a welcome burst of educational interest in how judicial systems can be corrupted…’

I had to do a bit of research on that title; if it sounds familiar, Call Me King was a popular US game show in the early 70’s. I found this out because there’s both songs and movies called Call Me King before this one; writer/director Wes Miller has a more substantial cinematic subversion on his mind than such a title switch, which is to say he’s made his own version of Die Hard, but in a courtroom. Regular reads know that my Die Hard fan-boy credentials are impeccable, and there’s a plenty of mileage in the idea, particular with the lead taking the form of a young, black female judge with a useful grasp of martial arts established in the opening credits.

‘Colored woman do not have the constitution to make the tough choices, they’re too emotional,’ runs a conversation that Jaeda King (Naturi Naughton) overhears while hiding in a toilet stall, and that sets her up nicely as a sympathetic, slighted character that we can root for in an old-school John McClane style. She’s up and out of the house early to deliver a sentencing in a closed-door courtroom session in Ohio. The case relates to Sean Samuels (Jason Mitchell), the brother of Gabriel (Lance Gross), otherwise known as Black Caesar, with the criminal connections the name implies. King is no ‘Black American Princess’ as her co-workers suggest, but an empathetic protagonist who ‘doesn’t ‘look down on anyone’, and that sense of fairness proves important as the hostage situation escalates.

So the ‘who’ is obvious enough in terms of identifying King’s adversary, but the why and how, as always in a Die Hard movie, are the real issues at stake. But Call Me King can’t just be categorised as just another carbon copy of Die Hard, since it uses that traditional framework to launch a scathing critique of how the legal system can be abused; ‘The jury finds it easier to believe that a black man would kill than that a white man would lie,’ is a line that taps into a general consideration of judicial malfeasance, a sense that the lack of judicial care and attention to duty from the Supreme Court down have been compromised by an injection of money from dubious sources.

So while Call Her King offers punch-ups and gunplay, and a welcome burst of educational interest in how judicial systems can be corrupted, as it switches between corridor action and courtroom battles, Miller doesn’t forget the key elements of a Die Hard film; sure, there’s a lack of lens flare, but there’s certainly some flash-bang action with upside down shots, split screens and blood on the lens. Naughton rips it up as the resourceful King, but there’s also strong support from Mitchell and Gross, plus Nicholas Turturro as a potential rotten apple and veteran Johnny Messner also excels as a guard who steps up when the chips are down.

Call Her King is the first entry from BLacklight Entertainment imprint, aiming to provide ‘quality opportunities for people of color and other traditionally disadvantaged people in front of and behind the camera’. If that’s the goal, the Call Me King succeeds, providing a fresh take on a familiar idea that should play as entertainment and education for a wide audience. And one senses that as things stand, we’re going to hear a lot more of the phrase ‘prosecutorial misconduct’ before the year is out. So while Call Her King’s mix of Assault on Precinct 19 B-movie plotting and crowd-pleasing heroics offer wide appeal, the desire to educate about the flaws in the current judicial system adds real value to the whole package.

Call Me King debuts on the Bet + streaming network from July 6th 2023.


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  1. Die Hard in a Courtroom? Would that have been the elevator pitch? Is it a gazillion floors up? Is there glass all over the place and somebody walking about barefoot on the glass?

  2. “my Die Hard fan-boy credentials are impeccable”

    See, right there is why casual movie goers simply do not trust movie reviewers. That is the biggest lie the internet has heard since King George III claimed the “troubles” in America would be solved in a week or two. Anyone who claims that Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie doesn’t have impeccable credentials.

    On a serious note, no movie like this is going to last long or make a big impression if it drags in politics, real world problems and preaching into it. Outside of the echo chamber crowd, people go to action movies to escape, not hear Mass Media 2.0 parroting the party line.

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