Alternately serious, silly, stoic, and corny, John Milius' Farewell to the King is a duly forgotten late-'80s action drama that's high on earnestness and good intentions, but is also plagued with the flip-sides of those assets: Basically, it's pretty darn goofy and periodically tough to take all that seriously.
Nick Nolte stars as a WWII soldier who finds himself shipwrecked, the only survivor of a vicious storm and some ill-tempered Japanese soldiers. So he promptly vanishes into the jungles of Borneo for a few years ... and pops back up as King of an isolated tribe. But when a team of British soldiers arrive and convince "King Learoyd" to help in the battle against the Japanese, it causes a whole lot of trouble for his peace-loving adopted family.
If you made it through Literature 101 and ended up with a working knowledge of Joseph Conrad and/or Rudyard Kipling, then you know full well where Farewell to the King is headed. Based on the novel by Pierre Schoendoerffer and adapted for the screen by action-lovin' John Milius, the flick displays an admirable sobriety, as if it's being careful not to degenerate into just another jungle action flick. But aside from the intermittent battle sequences and Nolte's (sometimes excellent / sometimes ridiculous) performance, there's very little of Farewell to the King that will stick with you once the credits roll.
The "white man as noble savage and isn't it ironic?" material runs out of steam well before the inexhaustible Nolte does. Director Milius, never a big fan of subtlety or nuance, frames his jungle locations with an accomplished hand, although there are only so many shots of lush jungle growth you can deal with before you start getting hungry for some plot. Farewell to the King is certainly watchable enough, provided you're a big Nolte fan or a Heart of Darkness admirer. Others need not apply.
Video: Anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), and pretty handsome, too, for a late-'80s flick.
Audio: Dolby Surround English or French, with subtitles available in the same two languages.
A little light on the action for a "war flick," and just a little too unintentionally goofy for a "drama," Farewell to the King isn't a terrible way to spend two hours -- although you could probably spend that time watching Apocalypse Now again.