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The River King
The River King
Actors: Edward Burns, Jennifer Ehle, Thomas Gibson, John Kapelos, Jamie Thomas King
Director: Nick Willing
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
R     2006     1hr 39min

Detective Abel Grey (Edward Burns) is called to investigate the death of a prep shcool student in the nearby river. Initially ruled as a suicide, Grey suspects that the death was a hazing incident gone toofar and solicits ...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: Edward Burns, Jennifer Ehle, Thomas Gibson, John Kapelos, Jamie Thomas King
Director: Nick Willing
Creators: Alex Marshall, Bob Portal, Christopher Zimmer, James Simpson, Jason Piette, Alice Hoffman, David Kane
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: First Look Pictures
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 01/24/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2005
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 39min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 12
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: French

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Member Movie Reviews

Jennifer D. (jennicat) from ST AUGUSTINE, FL
Reviewed on 12/19/2014...
This movie was ok, I just couldn't get into it the first time. Maybe if I saw it again.
0 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Donna D. from AMSTERDAM, NY
Reviewed on 1/21/2010...
Great movie kept you on the edge of the chair
0 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Mary Jane T. (MJ) from SPOTSYLVANIA, VA
Reviewed on 1/7/2010...
We enjoyed this movie.
0 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Reviewed on 11/12/2009...
this was good,but the book is better.
0 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

The River King will haunt you.
Amy Wallace | San Rafael, CA United States | 11/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The River King, based from Alice Hoffman's novel is a haunting mystery story. The characters have lept from the pages of a novel and onto the big screen. Starring Jennifer Ehle (BBC Pride and Prejudice)

This moving drama begins with small town police finding a young boy's body in the river, frozen under the ice. From the moment the movie begins, the images, characters and scenery are straight from the novel it was based on.

As the story unfolds, we begin to learn about the boy who was found in the river, and the life he lead before he died. The audience becomes haunted by the mysterious and exclusive private college and its equally strange and elite students. The audience discovers each part of the story through flashbacks and through the memories and thoughts of the characters.

I personally attended a small, private and rather elite college on the East Coast. Throughout the novel I was getting feelings of Deja vu; convinced I was back at Benningon. Not only is the story totally engrossing and haunting, the film starts to become reality and capture the emotions of the audience, without the usual hollywood tricks.

This film blew away my expectations. I was a huge fan of the novel; I read it over and over again. I anticipated the movie being a dissapointment, but found myself captured and surprized, even though I knew what was going to happen next.

If you liked this movie, I would reccomend:
The River King written by Alice Hoffman, and any of her other novels.
Donna Tart's novel: The Secret History (similar plot and setting)

The movies: Practical Magic (by the same author), The Red Violin, Silence of the Lambs, What Lies Beneath, The Village."
Powerful film that should be avoided by small minded idiots
J. Bongiorno | Valley Stream, NY United States | 01/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Gorgeously brooding cinematography, brilliant and perfectly chosen cast and a deeply emotive score characterize this melancholy reflection on the death of a young man and the ripples it has on the lives of a cop, a teacher and a close friend. Easily one of the best films of 2005 that sadly fell under the radar. This is one of those rare gems that real film lovers will discover in the years to come and hold up as an example of what a great movie can really be.

Sadly now you're stuck with reviews on from 3 camps:

1) The book purists who decry any derivation from the original source material and refuse to look at the film apart from the novel (a complaint that's understood but unjustified and unfair when judging a film on its own merits);

2) Moronic, tasteless idiots (usually younger viewers but not necessarily) who lack a brain, a heart and any measure of patience for anything that doesn't involve slick antiheroes, fast-paced violence and debasing sex;

3) Fans of the material who like what they've seen but struggle to properly synopsize or understand it due to the film's subtleties and metaphoric nature. I'll put myself in this latter category as I think the film is best experienced than read about, but as there are so many dim-witted responses to this film, I might as well try my own dim-witted attempt to explain what is so incredible about this picture.

I won't go into the plot, save to say that it begins with the discovery of a body in a river and the investigation by an honest police officer (played by Burns) who starts to see evidence that more is involved than an accident.

The three leads are very real, tragic characters that belong to the town's icy wasteland which has become infused with the mysterious death that in each of their lives takes on almost mythological proportions.

Burns is absolutely perfect in the role of a cop whose grief for his long dead brother is triggered by the investigation and possible cover-up. Unspoken and stoic, the grief is all in his achingly haunted eyes; like the small town blanketed in winter the character is frozen by sorrow, unable to move forward in his life.

Burns is joined by the ever wonderful Jennifer Ehle (Pride & Prejudice), a teacher in the school where the boy attended, who in her own way becomes obsessed by the tragedy of the case. Unlike Burns, Ehle is frozen not by the past, but by the future -- engaged to a man that is utterly void and cold -- yet unable to see a way out for herself.

Lastly there is the dead boy's friend played by Rachelle Lefevre, a young woman traumatized by the possibility that her friend may have committed suicide due to a fight she had with him shortly prior to his death. Unable to cope with the part she may have played, she becomes a stark figure of grief stuck in the icy landscape of a terrible moment.

Part of what makes this film so powerful and refreshing is it's deft use of music, camera and subtle metaphoric elements to create a deeply moody palette that approaches myth, yet remains utterly real and hauntingly reflective without falling into the cliched supernatural thriller mold. Likewise, while utilizing some of the trappings of mystery and cop films, it never descends into the cliche of the violent police film, nor the mystery movie that presents twists just for the sake of fooling the audience.

This film works at a much higher level than all of that. Yet despite its metaphysical elements, it's never pretentious or ungrounded in real life, even if at times that reality is heightened. There is a rare emotive quality here that weaves a spell akin to what great literature is able to achieve, creating genuine mystery and keeping the reality of the plot from ever feeling altogether depressing (which some feel while reading a newspaper for example.) It's aptly named The River King as there are layers of depth that will have you returning to the film and even picking up the original novel by Alice Hoffman. Sadly, the only thing lacking is any kind of extras on the DVD (save the trailer which is terribly cut to make the film look like something else.) A future release with director's and actors' commentary, an interview with Alice Hoffman, deleted scenes and other added bonuses would be great! That said, the 16x9 transfer is incredibly life-like and detailed. The 5.1 sound makes good use of the surrounds where appropriate to create and sustain the film's stark atmosphere.

Without revealing anything, I think where some people find themselves disappointed in the film (apart from the simpleminded buffoons who demand Hollywood cliches and can't handle something different) is that the River King takes the viewer on a journey that shows us glimpses of an elusive heightened sense of reality, but brings us back to the surface of the real world. And it is a grievous world. And yet as in the image of spring and the flowing water, lives become unthawed, and the story is redeemed from being too unremittingly grim. Not every mystery is solved, and not everything is perfectly tied up. Nor should it be. That's not how life is. And the river keeps its own secrets.

If nothing else I've said makes any sense, trust me when I say this: If you appreciate a movie that actually makes you feel something, and doesn't have to provide pat answers and false thrills, pick up The River King."
River Mystery
C. A. Luster | Burke, VA USA | 03/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Go into this expecting something like a "Midsomer Murder" and you won't be disappointed. This is not a fast paced in your face shootem up as perhaps some people need a fix for action. However, it is a good movie that although occasionally convaluted still delivers a good story. Good acting, sets, and music make this a worthy rental and I even intend to buy it as I think it is very rewatchable. Burns does a fine job and the rest the cast are more than competant. The camera work is excellent and the director does a great job of making us feel haunted. Many will in fact feel deja vu as one reviewer mentioned. Perhaps from your university days, perhaps from somewhere else. Fans of mysteries should enjoy it. Especially those that enjoy the "Stone Cold" style and not just "Die Hard". Most Hollywood Videos carry this so rent it and I think you will agree it is worth owning."