Director Reinaldo Marcus Green serves up an ace with King Richard, a biographical sports drama which is chock-full of phenomenal performances. Will Smith takes on the titular role of Richard Williams, the father and coach of Venus and Serena Williams who would go on to become not only tennis superstars but two of the greatest sports people of all time.
A lot has been made of Smith’s performance here and it is true that King Richard is very much Smith’s vehicle. Richard is a really interesting character – he is protective, loving and encouraging whilst simultaneously being stubborn, pig-headed and forceful. Yet above everything else, he is absolutely confident in the plan that he has for his girls and nothing on earth will deter him from following that plan through. Though the pronounced Louisiana drawl and hunched posture could easily have felt like a caricature, actually Smith’s likeable screen presence captures all the facets of Richard’s personality perfectly and it is easy to root for him, even when the audience doesn’t always agree with his actions.
Smith’s performance is not the only noteworthy one. King Richard has a brilliant supporting cast of the likes of Jon Bernthal, Tony Goldwyn, Mikayla Lashee Bartholomew and Dylan McDermott. However, it is Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton who play Oracene Price, Venus Williams and Serena Williams respectively who really stand out with raw and moving performances.
One of King Richard’s greatest strengths is in its wide appeal. Though you would have needed to have been living under a rock not to have heard of the Williams sisters, you do not need to be a tennis fan or sports aficionado to be able to enjoy this particular sports film. The film is very successful in getting the audience on side and consequently the tennis scenes are in no way a chore for those who have no familiarity with a racquet.
It is important to note that the film is not purely a sports based film, however. King Richard is also a film about family dynamics and what it is like to grow up in less than ideal circumstances. The Williams family deal with racism, stereotyping and violence as well as poverty and hardship – but even when they seemingly have nothing, they always have each other. King Richard is a heart-warming crowd pleaser that not only entertains its audience but inspires them too.
Drama | USA, 2021 | 12 | Blu-ray, DVD, Digital | 21st February 2022 (UK) | Warner Bros Home Entertainment | Dir.Reinaldo Marcus Green | Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton