"Life Of A King" Has Us In Checkmate Review

Cuba Gooding, Jr. (showing every one of his 46 years of age) brings us our latest inspirational, true-life film about chess. He portrays ex-felon Eugene Brown, who, after being released from prison after nearly two decades, tries to pick up the pieces of his life. He learns while reconnecting with his daughter, Katrina (Rachae Thomas), that his son is now in prison, following in his father’s footsteps. Feeling like an extra failure, he tries to make up for the mistakes of his life by inspiring the troubled teens at an inner city D.C. high school.

In prison, Eugene learned the ins and outs of chess from a random convict/mentor (Dennis Haysbert). He applies this knowledge to running detention at the high school. The rag-tag group of delinquents is reluctant to participate in something so stimulating, but after staring down drug-dealing thug Clifton (Carlton Byrd) and impressing the students with his card mindgames, they happily join in. Complications ensue, but Eugene’s inspirational chess-work with the kids leads to rehabilitating their directionless lives and leads to the foundation of his Big Chair Chess Club.

Like its predecessors, Life of a King succeeds in making you care about these troubled teens, and Eugene is pretty likable, too (how can you dislike Gooding, Jr.?). What makes his story so much more interesting is his outlook on life (informed by chess). His motto is “beat them at their own rules.” Meaning, to be successful in a white-dominated world, these African American kids must follow the rules to prove that they can be just as smart and skilled as any old privileged white kid. His desire to follow the rules presents some interesting dilemmas for him, making the film far more watchable than many like it.

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"Life of a King" is on sale February 11, 2014 and is rated PG13. Drama, inspirational. Directed by Jake Goldberger. Written by Jake Goldberger, David Scott, Dan Wetzel. Starring Cuba Gooding Jr, Dennis Haysbert, Lisagay Hamilton.

Feb
24
2014
John Keith • Staff Writer

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