Nick Nolte in Farewell to the King (1989)

King Nolte

Man years earlier Learoyd (Nick Nolte - 48 Hrs) had arrived on an island with a small group of soldiers but as they came under attack from the Japanese he ran for his life into the jungle to hide where he watched from a distance as his colleagues were executed. He ended up being found by a native tribe of head hunters and after doing battle becoming their king. Now after the arrival of commandos Botanist (Nigel Havers - Empire of the Sun) and Tenga (Frank McRae) he finds himself being asked to rejoin the fight against the Japanese something which he says no to having escaped the Western world and found a new life with a new people in a beautiful land. But that all changes when the Japanese arrive and his new found way of life is threatened by an enemy.

John Milius is a name which is familiar to me as he wrote and directed one of my favourite 80s movies "Red Dawn"; in truth he was written many great movies including "Apocalypse Now". But I wouldn't say I was a fan of his as whilst some of his movies have impressed others such as "Conan the Barbarian" didn't. Yet the simplicity of "Farewell to the King" along with the strange combo of a movie starring Nigel Havers and Nick Nolte appealed to me.

Nigel Havers and Frank McRae in Farewell to the King (1989)

Now some may disagree with me over my claim that "Farewell to the King" is a simple movie as it does have depth. That depth comes from the character of Learoyd who has found his own little Nirvana and has turned his back on the West and so for those who like to analyse movies it is Learoyd's character which provides the food for thought. But on a simple level we have a man whose home has been threatened and so having turned down the request to fight the Japanese now has a reason to fight and fight he certainly does.

Now "Farewell to the King" has a PG certificate and whilst it is not the most violent movie I have come across it does contain more violence than you might expect. It also contains plenty of humour and without being cheesy has that 80s action movie feel which in many ways is what appealed to me. Basically it is typical of John Milius from that era.

But "Farewell to the King" has a huge problem and it is the unlikely casting combinations. Nigel Havers and Frank McRae are like an odd couple of bungling commandos as they haphazardly parachute in and end tied up by the tribe of natives. And then there is Nick Nolte who is fine when it comes to the action side of the movie but doesn't have the depth to fully bring to life the character early on when he is silent and mysterious.

What this all boils down to is that "Farewell to the King" is by no means a great movie but one which works both at an entertaining simple level with action and humour but also at a level which has depth for those who like to analyse movies as well.