King Car is a brash 2021 thriller about a boy who starts a social and environmental revolution by using his ability to speak to cars. Brazilian director Renata Pinheiro’s ambitious feature is full of bold visual ideas, interesting characters, and a woman sexing up a sentient car. The film tackles a herd of social, political, and environmental issues while functioning as a schlocky good time. The Blu-ray from Dark Star Pictures and Vinegar Syndrome provides an excellent A/V package and plenty of bonus features for fans of this bizarre film. Recommended.
“We are 5km away from our much awaited destiny.”
The film begins with Uno (Luciano Pedro Jr.) being born inside his father’s taxi. Immediately he developed a kinship with cars that evolved into an ability to talk to them. As a bright-eyed teenager, Uno decides to study agroforestry rather than take over the family business. Meanwhile, officials institute a “Zero Km” Law which would outlaw cars over 15 years old from operating in the state. Uno takes his cerebral automotive connection and combines it with a plan to retrofit old cars with a consciousness (and some stylish modifications) to fool the lawmakers. His plan entices primal mechanic Ze (Matheus Nachtergaele, City of God) but once the proverbial wheels start turning the revolution becomes a coup.
Pinheiro’s film indulges in plenty of social and political themes while threading them through the utterly bizarre elements of this fascinating film. Harnessing the power of a talking car to fuel an environmental and political cause should be enough for a weird genre flick, right? Unfortunately, King Car has bigger ambitions that wind up diluting the film’s momentum. Sentient cars become horrific death machines bent on killing dissenters, sex between a car and a pole dancing performance artist, and a surreal transformation of mechanics into mindless workers bury the feature in an endless supply of bizarre genre trappings. It’s all fun and games unless you’re concerned with lean storytelling.
Where the film succeeds is in the power of optimism and social change. The inventive Uno and his group of eco-minded friends see through the Marxist intentions of the sentient autos and strive to thwart the mechanical uprising. Classmate Amora (Clara Pinheiro, The Yellow Night) is the driven and idealistic crush that doesn’t see the benefit of Uno donating a talking truck to the agriculture association. “Since when has a carmaker ever done social justice?” she spouts while working on a plant that thrives on metal-poisoned soils.
Pinheiro infuses every moment with colorful theatrics giving us performances that are memorable and committed. Matheus Nachtergaele is the animated mechanic Ze who brings energy and vigor to his role. Clara Pinheiro and Luciano Pedro Jr. have some decent chemistry but the two actors rarely seem like they’re in the same bizarre film as the rest of the cast. The MVP of the film is Jules Eltin (The Ornithologist) who plays the crotch stamping, pole dancing, car sexing performance artist Mercedes. Her character’s through-line is fuzzy but her scenes are memorable and rewatchable.
King Car uses a sentient sedan to tackle themes of social justice, tyrannical leadership, and the power of community over the individual. As a working metaphor for a free Brazil without the horrors of fascism, the film is a dazzling achievement that functions as an effective sci-fi-infused political statement.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
King Car arrives on Region A Blu-ray thanks to Dark Star Pictures and Vinegar Syndrome. The BD-25 disc is housed in a standard transparent keepcase with reversible artwork. Loading the disc offers the Darkstar Pictures logo before landing on the Main Menu screen with scenes from the film playing above typical navigation options.
King Car sports a detailed AVC encoded 1080p HD image in the film’s original 2.38:1 aspect ratio. Primaries are bright and dynamic with reds and greens showing prominence. The lush landscape of Brazil is presented with pleasing earth tones coupled with adequate depth. Fine detail is evident, though a slight softness permeates the HD image when sequences require a hazy sci-fi aesthetic.
Facial features and costuming look sharp in medium and close-ups while offering plenty of detail. Black levels are solid, especially during the garage sequences with Ze and Uno operating on the taxi. Contrast levels hold strong allowing the primaries to pop while still keeping the dark visual tone of the film intact. Banding and compression issues occur though not enough to detract from the experience.
King Car is supplied with a busy and energetic DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. This audio track uses EDM jams featuring a bouncy LFE that blends well with the hypnotic ambience. Dialogue is clear and clean without hiss or pop detected though some exchanges lose depth in large indoor spaces. Surround channels are in constant use with atmospherics, music, and effects. Tense orchestral tracks drone alongside the synth cues creating a unique texture.
While not loaded to the gills this disc provides plenty for fans of the film. Start with the short film then move through the features and galleries.
Renata Pinheiro delivers a bizarre yet entertaining political allegory with King Car. Unfortunately, the bold aesthetics and over-the-top theatrics overshadow the solid character work and messaging intended. However, those drawn to this oddity will see its many layers and appreciate it for more than the sticker price. The A/V package sports an excellent HD transfer with loads of detail and atmosphere paired with a tenacious DTS track that never wastes a moment. Recommended.