MARCH 30, 2018 -- 1991 and 1992 was a tumultuous time in Los Angeles that is presented as a backdrop for this film by Turkish director Deniz Gamze Erguven, her second feature length film. The first was the critically acclaimed Oscar nominated "Mustangs" about forced marriages in Turkey. Oh, what a difference a couple of years makes.


She cast Halle Berry and Daniel Craig as two neighbors living in South Central during the time leading up to the riots and through the riots. That is not a typo, they are neighbors in South Central, Los Angeles. Though Halle has dressed down a few times for previous roles - specifically "Monster's Ball", "Jungle fever", and "Losing Isaiah" - neither she nor Craig are ever believable in this go-round.


The film opens with the shocking and probably more reprehensible shooting death of 15-year old Latasha Harlins by an Asian shop owner who thought that the girl was shoplifting. The Asian woman was given an extremely light sentence which riled the black community in the days leading up to the Rodney King incident. The movie then finds a haggard looking Berry as Millie with several children preparing for school while she bakes 7-Up cakes.

Millie is a big hearted foster mother with several charges and is about to lose one when his biological parent gets out of prison. But the fact is, she really can't afford the children with her only income being the sales of 7-Up cakes.


Craig is her neighbor Obie - across the alley - who is fed up with the racket her children create when they all go out to play. Things become more tense when Millie brings home another teen whom she rescues from arrest by police, for whatever. She brings Damon (Lorenz Arnell) home in hopes her eldest foster boy, the responsible Jesse (Lamar Johnson) will rub off on him. Not exactly. Damon is a bad seed from the word go.


Damon falls in with a ragamuffin, street smart girl Nicole (Rachel Hilson) who likes to taunt police and other adult authority figures. Everything comes to a head when they go out during the riots and get caught up in the violence. Ogie and Millie join forces to go out and find the kids before something bad happens.


If this has the making of a budding love story, you've just figured out why this movie just goes to pot. No, it's not the acting. It's not the good intentions of creating something good out of something bad. It's the unbelievability of the story. You will groan during the scene that finds Millie and Ogie handcuffed to a lamppost.


For their parts, the children are fantastic doing what children will do. From a history lesson perspective the newsreel scenes are a grim reminder of the events in LA. But the dramatic writing is bunk.


"Kings" doesn't do what it wants to do given the great talent; the writing is miserable. Though it is set during a historical time in Los Angeles, it never feels believable with underdeveloped characters and unrealistic romance.   -- GRADE D  --   GEOFF BURTON