Sports biopic dramas can oftentimes be too formulaic, which unfortunately results in the film as a whole being relatively predictable, all too familiar, and not all that invigorating. And while Reinaldo Marcus Green’s King Richard most certainly does follow the tried-and-true formula of its predecessors, it’s nevertheless a deeply moving, emotional, and pulse-pounding drama.
Whether one follows tennis ardently or not at all, likelihood is they will know that Serena and Venus Williams are two of the best. Their athleticism, willpower, courage, and stamina are remarkable and inspirational, and the sisters are broadly credited for transforming how the public viewed the sport – but who was the one who, in turn, inspired them and helped them grow to where they are today? That individual was none other than their father, Richard Williams – here, played by Will Smith. Although they did have proper coaching with professionals, they wouldn’t have been in that position had it not been for their father’s guidance, reassurance, and persistence.
One of the many reasons why King Richard works as well as it does is because of its marvellous and moving screenplay by Zach Baylin, who clearly knows how to create a high-stakes, emotionally charged story for the big screen. His is a script that’s bursting with love, passion, care, and an incredible amount of respect for its subject. Every scene feels meaningful, and by the time the unbearably tense third act comes into play, it’s almost impossible not to be totally swept away by Baylin’s script and Green’s stunning direction.
Many of us know Will Smith best for his roles in such projects as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Men in Black, but oftentimes people forget that Smith has proven himself time and time again to be a seriously gifted dramatic actor; and in the role of Richard Williams, he delivers what is easily his best performance to date. He is so charismatic and sympathetic, flawed and abrasive yet inspirational and dynamic.
All of these ingredients combine to make King Richard a wonderful sports biopic and one that is sure to move its audience in at least a few ways. It does at times fall victim to formulaic structuring – and there are some moments that hit genre tropes a little too on the nose – but it still rings true as an excellent film and one that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
King Richard is out in cinemas now.