Kings of the Evening

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Kings of the Evening Movie Poster Image
Depression drama has good intentions but doesn't deliver.
  • PG
  • 2010
  • 90 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie conveys the message that self-esteem is important, especially during the dark days of the Depression, when many people have little reason to feel anything but gloomy. Simply putting on a good suit and receiving a few words of praise and approval can lift someone's spirits -- and often gives them the strength to push forward through difficult situations.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters are all faced with difficult choices and situations; some rise to the occasion better than others. When it comes to specific behavior, one character plays dice, while another collects leftovers that others leave on their plates. One man threatens to set a house on fire if its owner doesn’t pay her ex’s loan shark debts. And one woman seems to value material things -- she talks about liking men who wear nice clothes and have well-paying jobs.


There's an unofficial boxing match. A gun is brandished. The head of a factory bullies his son and an employee (he also uses racial slurs). A shed is torched, and there's a threat of more violence from a loan shark, who later attempts to knife someone. (Another character goes at him with a bat.) A woman slaps a man who gets fresh with her; a main character points a gun at another point blank. One man tries to hang himself.


A man and a woman who live in the same rooming house flirt; she hints that if he acts just right, he might not “sleep alone” at night. They kiss at the end of a date. Characters are shown sitting in the bath (no sensitive body parts are seen).


Frequent use of the word “ass” (as in “big ass”), as well as occasional uses of  “damn,” “piss,” “s--t,” "hell," and the "N" word.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character smokes -- he’s shown holding a cigarette. A man drinks his troubles away and sneaks a bottle into his rooming house. A man scrapes the leftover tobacco from old cigarettes so he can roll new ones to smoke.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this well-meant but clunky period drama about African Americans struggling to get by during the Great Depression centers on characters who are forced to make hard choices during a hard time. Circumstances and racism combine to make it seem impossible to ever get ahead, but some of the characters are able to shine even against strong odds. Expect some swearing (including "s--t" and the "N" word), drinking, and smoking, as well as moderate flirting and a few violent confrontations -- but on the whole the story is more heartwarming than eyebrow raising. Still, kids who aren't already interested in the time period/subject matter probably won't be too intrigued.

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What's the story?

Freed from the chain gang at last, Homer Hobbs (Tyson Beckford) discovers that his mother has left town and the economy is in the dumps of the Great Depression. He finds a home in a rooming house run by Gracie (Lynn Whitfield), a woman struggling to soldier on in a life that's far removed from the glamour she once knew. His new neighbors include Clarence (Reginald T. Dorsey) -- a boozy, sad man who's desperate to matter, both to himself and to others -- and Lucy (Linara Washington), a woman who’s saddled with an unfortunate history. They, like the men who converge at the town hall one night a week for a fashion contest, want to be kings of the evening, to find hope in the grimness of it all. But inner demons -- as well as real-life ones -- make it difficult to move on.

Is it any good?

KINGS OF THE EVENING has no real plot to stand on and no reason to pull an audience in. It misses the chance to be a masterful snapshot of the hard-luck life of African Americans during the Great Depression. Yes, there’s the basic framework of a story -- a young man leaves jail only to find a world hobbled by economic despair that, in turn, shackles most everyone but the monied few -- but little exploration happens. Wooden acting from Beckford and overacting from some of the supporting characters (Whitfield excepted) only reinforce the weakness of the story arc. (Not that they can be blamed for being written one dimensionally ... )

Strangely, the film doesn’t feel like a period piece, either, despite the requisite costumes, sets, and props. There's a certain sense of authenticity that Kings of the Evening simply doesn't have. The movie is clearly trying hard, but it just never comes together.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Great Depression. How do you think those hard times then compare to modern economic woes? How does the movie show people getting by -- and helping each other get by -- during the 1930s? Do you think people act the same way today?

  • One character defies a stern father figure, while another opts to give her life savings to appease a threatening loan shark. What do you think about the choices these characters (and others) make when faced with difficult situations?

  • How to TV shows and movies typically depict the Great Depression? Is this movie similar to or different from others you've seen set during this time?

Movie details

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