The Internet Movie Database lists 48 adaptations of Macbeth–give or take a few TV versions–but Geoffrey Wright’s contemporary gangster take on the Scottish play doesn’t resemble any of them as much as a low-budget remake of Scarface. There’s lots of gunplay between drug dealers, the witches are a bunch of doped-up goth chicks, and some of the Bard’s best soliloquies are abbreviated in favor of extended orgies (some literal, some merely orgies of bloodletting.)
Fresh off of Slings & Arrows‘ pitch-perfect second season, in which the New Burbage Festival takes on the cursed play, Marcy and I were more than eager to see a fresh take on Mackers, but there’s precious little to praise here. In the title role, Sam Worthington gives most of his speeches in voice-over without changing his expression at all, and Victoria Hill looks like she would be more comfortable in a prime time soap than as literature’s most cruelly ambitious woman. She gets to do “Out, out damn spot” topless.
The contemporary updating–Duncan and his men are Melbourne drug lords–is supposed to make the drama more accessible but only distracts instead. (Macbeth’s gated estate bears a sign identifying it as Dunsinane, Banquo likes to ride motorbikes just so he can ride something when he gets whacked, and Burnham Wood is a logging company.)
Worst of all, the direction lacks the go-for-broke pomo gusto that made Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet such a success: everything about this adaptation, including the slow-motion finale, feels unconvincing and lackluster, and the beauty of the language never takes wing. How could it if you cut “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” before the punchline? Stick with Orson, Roman, and Akira. Opens July 6.
Macbeth. Geoffrey Wright, 2006. *
Videos: Geoffrey Tenant takes on Macbeth at the beginning of Slings & Arrows S2E2, newsreel footage from Orson Welles’ 1936 all-black stage version, and trailers for Polanski’s 1971 and Kurosawa’s 1957 adaptations.