The William Hurt and Gael García Bernal thriller that got away

The King (out on DVD today) is a taut, occasionally nerve-racking coming-home story with impeccable credentials (co-screenwriter Milo Addica also wrote Monster’s Ball; director James Marsh’s Wisconsin Death Trip is a cult classic) and a critical mass of unforgettable performances.

Elvis (Gael García Bernal) heads to Corpus Christi to insinuate himself into the life of the Rev. David Sandow (William Hurt) — an Evangelical who would just as soon not remember Elvis, an illegitimate son from his sinful former life.

From the start, nothing sits quite right. Elvis is a recent Navy discharge who seems a bit too connected to his rifle and a bit too interested in the minister’s daughter. Sandow, the presumptive heavy — the apparently hypocritical preacher man — warms up to Elvis even as he’s alienating his other son (Paul Dano, the teenager in Little Miss Sunshine).

The chipper soundtrack and sun-drenched cinematography serve only to heighten the surreal, ruthless precision of The King. Bernal’s terrific as the sweetly guileless psycho Elvis, but Hurt’s portrayal of a vulnerably pious man makes this gothic fairy tale quietly, unexpectedly resonant.

“>VIEW the trailer for The King

“>BUY The King, 2005; 103 minutes

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The William Hurt and Gael García Bernal thriller that got away