All the Queen’s Men is a film at war with itself. It’s 1944 and three British spies are tasked with stealing a German Enigma machine. Breaking the Enigma’s military codes could turn the tide of World War II. The factory is staffed by women, and there are no female agents on site, so the team investigates in drag. The spies are a mix of gay and straight, cis and trans, performing acts that would get them arrested in the UK. The ingredients are there for a smart queer thriller. Enter Matt LeBlanc.
LeBlanc plays Captain Steven O’Rourke, a macho American tasked with sneaking the “Poof Platoon” into enemy territory. David Schneider’s screenplay appears to have been written before the sitcom star was attached. Attempts to retool the work into a silly action comedy prove disastrous. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky can’t make a single comic set piece work. LeBlanc looks miserable, his performance is charmless and the film sinks whenever he’s on screen.
All the Queen’s Men was a critical and financial flop. It tanked LeBlanc’s hopes of a film career. I was expecting the worst but found some interesting ideas. Let’s break it down in this spoiler filled recap.
Act One: The One where Joey Goes to Berlin
Scene One: British Military Base, 1944
(Matt LeBlanc’s stunt double drives up in a German tank.)
MATT LEBLANC: I just stole an Enigma machine!
SILLY BRIT: British regulations says I must destroy your office equipment. (He does. LeBlanc bites him.)
COMMANDER: Silly Brit, you’re fired. LeBlanc, we need you to lead an undercover squad and find the factory where the Enigmas are made.
Scene Two: Library
MATT LEBLANC: Why are we in ugly drag?
EDDIE IZZARD: Because the Enigma factory is run by women.
MATT LEBLANC: Okay. But why are we in drag at the library? (Acts goofy and suspicious.)
LIBRARIAN (A Resistance contact): Good question. You can’t speak German, you don’t look like a woman and your antics have just blown our cover.
(Nazis give chase. Librarian helps LeBlanc’s squad escape.)
EDDIE IZZARD: Wait… The Librarian is a woman. Why isn’t she sneaking into the factory?
LIBRARIAN: Because then there’d be no film.
Act Two: The One where Joey Works Undercover
Scene Three: Mansion Party
LIBRARIAN: I’ll seduce the Nazi General. He’ll tell me where the factory is.
GENERAL: I’d rather sleep with this tall, muscular woman.
MATT LEBLANC: No way dude. I’m 100% heterosexual!
(LeBlanc punches out the General and steals his papers.)
LIBRARIAN: What part of undercover don’t you understand?
Scene Four: Librarian’s Apartment
EDDIE IZZARD: Meet the rest of the drag squad! There’s Twink, Old Guy and my boyfriend the Chauffeur.
MATT LEBLANC: Screw you queers. I work alone.
(LeBlanc goes out alone, gets immediately spotted by Nazis, and escapes back through the sewers. He’s covered in poop. Hilarious!)
DRAG SQUAD: We translated the General’s papers. The Enigmas are being built at the local Toy Factory. You’re welcome.
MATT LEBLANC: Whatever. I’ll just leave a love letter for the Librarian and we’ll be off.
CHAUFFEUR: Wait… Why isn’t the German speaking trans woman leading the operation?
EDDIE IZZARD: Because I didn’t star on Friends.
Act Three: The One where the Team Steals an Enigma
Scene Five: Toy Factory
EDDIE IZZARD: I’ll sing for the Nazis while you search the factory. (Musical number!)
TWINK: I have to use the restroom. (Gets caught by a Nazi.)
MATT LEBLANC: Nice to have someone else blow our cover for once.
(LeBlanc and Izzard kill the Nazi after an extended fight scene.)
TWINK: I just watched someone die because of my mistake. The film is going to take my trauma seriously… for about two minutes.
OLD GUY: I stuffed the Enigma’s pieces in my dress. Let’s go!
Scene Six: Air Base
MATT LEBLANC: Where’s the Commander’s getaway plane?
TWINK: He wants us to fail so the Nazis won’t know England’s already cracked the Enigma codes. I only just now realized.
NAZIS: We’ll take that Enigma. We captured the Librarian after reading your incriminating love letter!
MATT LEBLANC: Doh!
(Big action scene. LeBlanc and the Drag Squad rescue the Librarian, steal a plane and fly to freedom.)
MATT LEBLANC: Hey Librarian, how you doin’?
LIBRARIAN: Well, you accomplished nothing and put me in danger. But I guess we’ll bang.
The One that the Critics Hated
[LeBlanc] plays a woman as if determined, in every scene, to signal to the audience that he’s absolutely straight and only kidding.Roger Ebert
Alan Turing designed an early computer that proved crucial to cracking the Enigma codes. He was subsequently outed as a homosexual, chemically castrated and driven to suicide at the age of 41. British laws forbidding homosexuality would not be overturned till 1967. Turing would be posthumously pardoned in 2013. All The Queen’s Men doesn’t mention Turing but his story provides useful context.
Eddie Izzard rightly points out that the queer members of the team won’t be embraced in England. What happens to them after surviving a suicide mission? Izzard works at an illegal gay bar. Twink (David Birkin) works for a military that considers him disposable. Will Izzard’s German boyfriend (Oliver Korittke) be able to stay in the UK? The epilogue is not concerned with these things. Instead, it focuses on LeBlanc’s heterosexual romance.
There are other stars who could have played LeBlanc’s role better. Ewan McGregor. Viggo Mortensen. Maybe a Baldwin. But the part is thankless. A blowhard who spouts anti-gay slurs, undermines his team and learns nothing. For a moment I thought the minorities were going to do all the work while the straight cis jerk took the credit. Then the silly Twink screws up so that LeBlanc (and his stuntman) can perform some action star heroics.
A critic isn’t supposed to dote on the film they wish they’d seen instead. But I can’t recommend the film that they made. This year I’ve reviewed films featuring LeBlanc, Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry. I should probably revisit the work of Lisa Kudrow.