The Most Underrated Action Movie of the Decade Is About to Leave Streaming Forever
Sometimes the princess has to save herself.
Most fairytales posit marriage as the healing balm that soothes any issues of autonomy. But in The Princess, it’s just another prison.
The film opens with an idyllic shot of its heroine (Joey King) resting peacefully in the highest room of a tall tower. We’ve seen this story play out in a hundred movies, from earnest Disney classics to farces like Shrek, but this particular tale trades fantasy for a terrifying reality. Our unnamed Princess isn’t waiting for a man to scale the tower and break her slumber with true love’s kiss. She’s been imprisoned by the nobleman she’s supposed to be marrying. There’s no fairy godmother or woodland creatures around to lend a hand, either. If she wants her freedom, she’ll have to fight for it.
The Princess embraces all the misogynistic undertones that once fueled so many fairytales. It acknowledges that medieval women rarely overcame the patriarchy, but also gives its heroine the tools to fight back. Conveniently, the Princess is well-versed in martial arts, which will come in handy as she sneaks her way down to the lower levels of the castle to face off with her betrothed (a sneering Dominic Cooper) and free her imprisoned family. With a small militia posted on each castle floor, her covert descent turns into a never-ending brawl that’s equal parts Rapunzel and The Raid.
Despite its fun premise, The Princess is one of the latest casualties of Disney’s streaming purge. The film premiered on Hulu in 2022, but will be pulled from the platform soon, likely within the week. As the latest in a long line of straight-to-streaming schlockfests, The Princess wasn’t the splashiest title of the year. It may also have been a bit late to the party: Hollywood has been giving princesses the revisionist treatment for decades, and with more nuance and success than The Princess can conjure.
But The Princess still deserves more credit than it got. With Furie director Le-Van Kiet at the helm, a tight script peppered with breathless, bone-crunching action, and King in the title role, it makes for a surprisingly entertaining (if not a little mindless) exercise in female rage.
Let’s address the mindlessness first. The screenplay from Ben Lustig and Jake Thornton doles out its feminist themes with a heavy hand, but Kiet knows how to keep things feeling fresh. The Princess clocks in at a brisk 90 minutes, about 75% of which are devoted to capital-A Action. King’s Princess rarely gets a breather between brawls, and each set piece is a slick, exhausting story in itself. Fight choreographer Kefi Abrikh delivers fierce, creative combat in every scene. If comparisons to John Wick aren’t completely accurate, they’re at least warranted.
King is in great form here, a far cry from her claim to fame in Netflix’s much-maligned Kissing Booth series. A scant script does very little to slow her momentum or pathos; she throws herself headlong into her role as Action Star. And she’s not the only one chewing on some scenery here. Veronica Ngo, previously Furie’s leading lady, delivers a solid supporting turn as the Princess’ mentor Linh. Olga Kurylenko also does what she can as the villain’s whip-cracking henchwoman, Moira, and watching this trio face off throughout is one of The Princess’ best features.
This brand of action film has become something of a rare breed. Sure, it’s mindless, shallow, and a bit too in love with its own half-baked ideas. But The Princess can still be a lot of fun, if you accept its vibe. And although it deserves better than being banished from Hulu, you can still give it a chance before it’s too late.
The Princess is streaming on Hulu, for now.