As Jonathan Case’s hyper-stylistic take on Syracuse, New York’s mayoral history opens, we’re greeted with two lines of text: “Some of the following actually happened. Most of it didn’t.” From there, King Lee delivers a comic exploitation tale of Mayor Lee (Nathan Faudree), based on real-life Syracuse Mayor Lee Alexander, as he deals with corruption and scandal surrounding his administration in the 1970s.
The film plays out like an absurd ’70s exploitation film, complete with sex, drugs and violence. All over the top, all silly. I mean, it’s hard to take a film seriously when it includes not just one, but two violent confrontations with Allen Ginsberg and Ringo Starr. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of where the film goes with its special brand of loosely-based-on-history gibberish.
Have you ever seen those Drunk History videos? This is a lot like one of those. Then again, it’s also a lot like an Oliver Stone film. Well, a parody of one. Okay, so it’s like if Oliver Stone did a Drunk History video about Mayor Lee Alexander of Syracuse, New York, only he did it so well that it became a parody of itself. Yes? No? Oh, f**k off… I’m trying, it’s just a really unique film.
And a fun one to boot. Once you figure out that this one is going to be silly, but with a weird affection for Syracuse history, it’s easy to be entertained. Much of it is Nathan Faudree’s swarmy yet charismatic performance as Mayor Lee. On the one hand, he’s so engaging, how do you not fall for him? On the other, yeah, he’s a corrupt scumbag… but he’s Syracuse’s corrupt scumbag.
King Lee is a fun time. I’d say it’s the type of movie where you learn something with your laughs, but I wouldn’t necessarily trust the validity of anything you learn from this flick. You will laugh, though, and I’ll never think of Syracuse the same way ever again.
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