Adapted from Jimmy Murphy's critically-acclaimed play The Kings Of The Kilburn High Road, Kings is a downbeat affair that sees four hard-drinking Irish ex-patriots reunite in Kilburn, London for the wake of their friend Jackie (Sean O'Tarpaigh), found dead on the tracks of the Underground. Having left Ireland in the '70s, the friends have had varied successes: Joe (Meaney) did alright for himself, but a coke habit and the guilt of being the catalyst of Jackie's downfall weighs on his mind; Git (O'Connor) and Jap (O'Kelly) are down-and-out alcoholics, afraid to go back home as failures, and have blamed Joe for their destituteness. These unresolved issues, and doubts over the circumstances of Jackie's death, come to a head in the snug of their old local. Adapting a play for the screen can be a tough business as writer/director Tom Collins probably found out, one lonely stormy night sitting at his computer. What do you do about those long scenes that work perfectly on stage but look like, well, a play, on screen? One option is to include flashbacks that chronicle the friends' arrival in London, and Collins works this in very well (the cast that play the younger characters do a great job). Another option is to split up the action so it doesn't look like a bunch of men standing around talking, by including scenes in and around the pub, and this gives the film the momentum needed to drag it out from under the play's shadow. However, once the action settles down to the snug, there's not a lot he can do except roll the camera and let the dialogue take over, and it's here that Kings loses out. The dialogue (which veers from English to Irish and back again) isn't snappy enough to sustain the long scene and even though the cast are at the top of their game, they can't help all that pent-up emotion sneak out through the side exit. It's heavy on the melodrama but there's one light note: after going head-to-head in The Van and here, if Meaney and O'Kelly have one more bust-up on screen they will become our very own Joe Pesci and Frank Vincent. But who's Pesci and who's Vincent is another matter entirely.
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