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King Richard

Chronicling the life of Richard Williams – the father of two of tennis’ most celebrated players of all time in Venus & Serena Williams is Will Smith. Both Smith and Williams share many similarities, and the two are a perfect fit for this sporting biopic produced by Venus & Serena. The subject material bounces between punchy and light, but there is a dramatic core that keeps the momentum alive, while Smith’s sheer star power ensures that all eyes are kept on him. 

It feels like King Richard has had little promotion building up to its release in cinemas. The usual push for a film with such weighty content as this seems to have been lost in the shuffle, while audiences flock toward Ghostbusters: Afterlife and eagerly anticipate the likes of The Matrix Resurrections and Spider-Man: No Way Home. It’s a film that deserves a bigger release, and one hopes it is still in the conversation when awards season rolls around next year. Not just because King Richard is a really great film, but also because this is Smith’s finest performance in years and one that may even emulate his performance in Ali back in 2001. 

The story may be familiar to some, but to those uninitiated this is the story of how Richard Williams managed to raise his daughters against all the oncoming diversity they would face. Encouraging his daughters to take part in a sport that was very much dominated by the white elite, while also facing more home-grown threats, such as street gangs and the distribution of drugs are themes that director Reinaldo Marcus Green touches on but doesn’t allow the film to linger on. Setting this as a backdrop to their rise to the top gives the Williams’ sisters future success all the more meaning. The acting is powerful on all fronts. And, at times, it is entirely moving. When Smith shares the screen with Aunjanue Ellis as his onscreen wife, King Richard finds its emotional spine — as the couple battle society and themselves at various periods in their relationship. Points must also go to Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton as Venus and Serena. Despite this not exclusively being their story, there is never a scene wasted with the two. And by the time the finale takes place on court, the audience is completely invested in them.

King Richard runs at 145 minutes long, but it is not excessive. In fact, it is time well spent. From the early scenes where Richard pitches his idea for Venus & Serena to multiple coaches unwilling to take them on, to his “plan” which he sticks to diligently, the film rarely falters. The confrontations with local gangs could potentially divert from the main course, but again – it has its place. What really makes King Richard shine though is Smith. His star wattage is dulled by his appearance here as he fully embodies the man who had to work night security after training his daughters all day. But it’s that same star power that lights up the film with his natural charisma and quick mouth, as well as dialling up the intensity when needed. King Richard is Will Smith’s film, and it’s a film that deserves all the praise it is getting. I just hope we are still talking about it come the end of March.

4/5

King Richard is in UK cinemas now. 

By Kieron

Film enthusiast and blogger. Will write for money.

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