To Play the King [1993]

In To Play the King, the second installment of this deliciously wicked political satire, Francis Urquhart (who rose to power in House of Cards) appears to have everything he wants. He is the prime minister, he has no immediate rivals, and everyone who knows of his crimes is either on his side or dead. But a new challenge arises when the queen dies and the new king (Michael Kitchen doing a perfect Prince Charles) proves to be a thorn in Urquhart's side. The king is troubled by the side effects of the prime minister's policies: homelessness, poverty, and an ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. When he criticizes Urquhart in public, it becomes clear that the king must be dealt with, and quickly. Francis Urquhart may be a staunch defender of the monarchy as a concept, but an individual sovereign is fair game if he proves to be a threat. A fat princess, the king's ex-wife, scandal-mongering newspapermen, and a kidnapping all play their part when Urquhart sets his plan in motion, but somebody very close to the prime minister has information that could destroy him. With an Andrew Davies script that pokes fun at British politics and the antics of the royal family as well as a terrific cast led again by Ian Richardson, To Play the King maintains the high standard set by House of Cards. In Francis Urquhart, Davies and Richardson have created one of the screen's greatest villains, and his brazen scheming is a delight to watch. --Simon Leake

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