The debate about whether the rise and rise of streaming services is a good or bad thing for movie theaters will rage on.
There are some movies that deserve to be seen on the biggest screen possible, movies like Top Gun: Maverick or Tenet, movies calibrated for that precise experience. But there’s one area where streaming services are really coming into their own, and that’s the Friday night action smash-em-up.
A few weeks ago, the internet was abuzz with chatter about Interceptor, Netflix’s new chest-thumping action-thriller about an under-attack offshore missile interceptor platform and the one woman standing between the world and total catastrophe.
Interceptor has had terrible reviews, but for me, ruined after a week at work and looking after two small children, it was just the ticket for a Friday night movie where my brain could only handle the most basic of plots. Now, Hulu has its own Friday night feast, a proper action-thriller, and it’s a big step up from Interceptor.
A bloody marvel...
The Princess stars Joey King, best known for her roles in Fargo and Netflix’s romantic-comedy The Kissing Booth. Set in an unnamed medieval kingdom, her character, known only as The Princess, finds herself betrothed to Dominic Cooper’s Julius, a cruel sociopath who wants to take the throne by any means necessary. When she refuses to marry him, The Princess is kidnapped and locked in a remote tower.
But what Julius and Olga Kurylenko's Moira, his vicious right-hand woman, haven’t banked on is the fact that The Princess has spent her youth under the tutelage of Veronica Ngo's Linh, a teacher in all things martial arts, swordplay and vicious self-defence. There are hoards of guards between The Princess and escape, but she’s prepared to fight every single one of them to get out of the castle.
That's it. The plot could not be simpler. The costumes might resemble House Of The Dragon, but this is an unashamed action romp which is more akin to martial arts masterpiece The Raid or Die Hard. We barely leave the castle, save for a couple of scenes set in the grounds. We just watch on, open-mouthed, as The Princess works her way down, things get bloodier and bloodier.
Action movie royalty
The Princess counts Derek Kolstad, creator of the John Wick franchise, among its producers, and you can see Wick’s influence over it in the balletic action sequences and physicality of the stunts.
The action and violence is also absolutely unrelenting. There’s no weighty prologue, no sad montage about the fall of a kingdom. In fact, the kingdom doesn’t even get a name. Why? Because it doesn’t matter one jot.
The Princess also manages to dodge one of the main criticisms viewers and critics leveled at Interceptor, which was the movie’s cliched dialogue. It dodges it by having hardly any at all.
It does have King playing a great action heroine, Cooper on marvellous form as the dastardly Julius and a zippy 93-minute runtime.
There's no place like home...
The Princess is the perfect sweet spot for a straight-to-streaming movie, a turn-your-brain off action romp that's lean as you like, simply-plotted and an awful lot of fun. If you've got the energy for something more cerebral, it might not tick the box for you, but if you're really rather tired at the end of the week and looking for some simple thrills, it's a winner.
The Princess is out tomorrow (July 1) on Hulu in the US and Disney Plus in the UK.