Written & Directed By: Michael Almereyda
Based On The Play By: William Shakespeare
Cinematography By: Tim Orr
Editor: John Scott Cook & Barbara Tulliver
Cast: Ed Harris, Milla Jovovich, Delroy Lindo, Ethan Hawke, Kevin Corrigan, Penn Badgely, Anton Yelchin, Dakota Johnson, Bill Pullman, John Leguizamo, James Ransone, Vondie Curtis-Hall, J.D. Williams, Spenser Treat Clark
A gritty story of a take-no-prisoners war between dirty cops and an outlaw biker gang. A drug kingpin is driven to desperate measures. You would need a big name cast to keep the audiences interest. Unless you have Shakespeare purist fans. As there is no real style and feels closed in and claustrophobic
So with this cast other than Ed Harris, Ethan Hawke. you have actors who are more on the mainstream leading roles. Challenging themselves and trying to show they are more than pretty faces by tackling Shakespeare in a more contemporary way and trying to make it more of a crime story.
Though this is one of few times Ed Harris really get to play a leading role. Even if he is barely in the film his presence is always felt. Where as Ethan Hawke is an accomplished stage actor and leading man. So it is not strange to see him In This film. In more of a smaller but pivotal role. Though both heavily featured on the poster. they seem to leave it a showcase for the other actors. As most of the tale revolves around the younger supporting characters. They still revolve more around Harris’s character.
Though it still comes off as slow and claustrophobic. Throughout the performances feel more forced and never quite natural. I understand the language might be out of place, but usually in successful adaptations the actors still find a way to make it convincingly theirs. The material never seems to come alive. Even with such a violent tangled tale.
It’s a shame as the film has a good recognizable cast and strong material that doesn’t feel like it ever comes full circle and maters by their presence. Small scale can be realistic in a kitchen sink drama way. Here that style adds very little, but is definitely a stylistic choice.
The film offers us glimpses of the underworld they operate in but never quite fully explained. Yet we see constant back deals behind closed doors. That every so often becomes a little confusing. Though by the third act it all becomes more clear.
The film feels like an experiment. While also trying to follow the popularity of Shakespeare and the adaptations of it. It tries to stick to it’s more indie roots by choosing a play that is less well known. So that maybe fewer audience members can find fault with it.
This is Director Michael Almereyda’s second attempt at a modern shapespeare tale. He directed an adaptation of Hamlet with Ethan Hawke that similarly had mixed but better results.
Strangely this is one of the few of Shakespeare’s tragedies that has more of a happy ending. Once you get through some deaths and a general massacre.
The film comes off more as a rich fairy tale. That seems inspired by the show SONS OF ANARCHY, with it’s dirty cops and criminal biker gang. Just as that show was inspired by the tale of HAMLET.