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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Geoffrey Wright|
scr Geoffrey Wright, Victoria Hill
with Sam Worthington, Victoria Hill, Lachy Hulme, Gary Sweet, Steve Bastoni, Matt Doran, Chloe Armstrong, Miranda Nation, Kate Bell, Damian Walshe-Howling, Jonny Pasvolsky, Rel Hunt
release Aus 21.Sep, US 15.Jun.07, UK 13.Jul.07
Is that a dagger? Sweet, Worthington and Hill
Lurid, dark and extremely violent, this modern-day Australian adaptation of the Scottish play is thrillingly deranged, although it's also rather pretentious as it wallows in over-the-top grisliness.
When he orchestrates the downfall of a traitorous Melbourne gangster, Macbeth (Worthington) is rewarded by mob boss Duncan (Sweet) with greater responsibility. But Duncan gives his favoured son Malcolm (Doran) even more. Macbeth's furious wife (Hill) convinces him to take over the whole operation by killing Duncan, something Macbeth knows is wrong but thinks might be the answer to a mysterious prophetic visitation by three nubile witches (Armstrong, Nation and Bell). Then in his paranoia, he also tries to get rid of colleagues Macduff (Hulme) and Banquo (Bastoni), which leads to a rival uprising.
With their screenplay, Wright and Hill have eliminated all but the essential dialog (and of course the beloved speeches), letting the plot exposition come through actions and visual shorthand. This effectively translates the play to film, and also cleverly adapts the story to the Melbourne crime scene, even if that Elizabethan dialog sounds odd on Aussie lips. What emerges is a gritty and gruesome crime thriller, shot by Wright in a sleekly eye-catching urban style that's flooded with red and black and lots of shiny clothing, jewellery, skin and blood.
The cast really goes for it, with full-blooded performances that are gutsy and often voracious. Shakespeare's characterisations are complicated and vividly heartbreaking, and each actor invests deep emotions into their character that overcome the limitations of the stilted language. Worthington helps us identify with Macbeth in his paralysing self-doubt and then obsessive overconfidence, right to the tragic conclusion (although the leather kilt is overkill).
This fiercely cinematic experience constantly assaults us with ruthless brutality even as the underlying story is filled with wrenching emotions as each character realises too late that they've made a terrible mistake. The digital video cinematography has a creepy, unflinching intensity that inventively builds suspense and atmosphere. In the end, Wright overdoes it with the gore, building to an excessive but extremely well-staged gunfight massacre. Although perhaps this overindulgence actually enhances Shakespeare's powerfully timeless themes.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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