THE PRINCESS movie poster | ©2022 Hulu/20th Century Studios

THE PRINCESS movie poster | ©2022 Hulu/20th Century Studios

Rating: R
Stars: Joey King, Dominic Cooper, Olga Kurylenko, Veronica Ngo, Alex Reid, Ed Stoppard, Katelyn Rose Downey
Writers: Ben Lustig & Jake Thornton
Director: Le-Van Kiet
Distributor: Hulu/20th Century Studios
Release Date: July 1, 2022 (Hulu)

THE PRINCESS is set in what looks like a fairytale kingdom, in what looks like the never-never days of yore. In the opening, as a pretty, fantasy-type Celtic score plays, we see a high castle tower above a lake.

Within the tower is our Princess (Joey King), wearing a white satin wedding dress, sleeping on a bed adorned with flowers, across the room from a fire in the hearth.

However, upon waking, the Princess finds her wrists are shackled. In no time at all, she has dislocated one thumb to free her hand from the cuff, kills three guards who come in, and is off and running.

THE PRINCESS doesn’t so much subvert the once-upon-a-time genre as mostly ignore it entirely. We get a few flashbacks showing us that the kingdom has been invaded by hyper-aggressive Lord Julius (Dominic Cooper). His initial plan was to become heir to the throne by wedding the Princess and then murdering her father, the King (Ed Stoppard).

The Princess walked out on Julius at the altar a little earlier in the day. Julius is still determined to legitimize his takeover of the kingdom through royal wedlock, and he needs to recapture the Princess to do it.

Apart from this, we’re about halfway into the film before anything like a plot asserts itself. When it does, we can guess where it’s going. This means that enjoyment of THE PRINCESS relies in large part on how much the viewer revels in action, especially of the sword and martial arts variety, for its own sake.

This isn’t to say that THE PRINCESS lacks either character or humor. Writers Ben Lustig & Jake Thornton refreshingly have the Princess train secretly as a warrior not because she needs to avenge anybody or protect a baby, but simply because this is what she wants to do. It’s great to see a woman hero who doesn’t need some retro reason for her heroism.

Director Le-Van Kiet and stunt coordinators Clayton Barker and Stanimir Stamatov find an infinite amount of ways to depict combat, some of it comedic, some of it suspenseful, and a lot of it fairly bloody.

It’s definitely entertaining to see the Princess fight her way up, down, and around the family castle. It’s also agreeable to see the flourishes of production design in secret passages, different types of staircases, a number of uses for decorative banners and so on.

King performs at top level both emotionally and physically. While she is doubled in places, there are a lot of fight shots where she is unmistakably doing her own stunt work. She also registers the Princess’s whipsawing emotions, from grief to guilt to exasperation to fury, very credibly.

Cooper does all he should as the smug villain. Veronica Ngo and Olga Kurylenko both register as women warriors on opposite sides of the conflict, and Katelyn Rose Downey is appealing as the Princess’s spunky little sister.

THE PRINCESS is fun and spry. Depending on what one wants out of a movie, a little more narrative complexity, or at least dialogue, might or might not be welcome.

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