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Stars: Sam Worthington, Victoria Hill, Lachy Hulme, Gary Sweet, Steve Bastoni, Mick Molloy, Kat Stewart, Matt Doran, Damien Walshe-Howling, Miranda Nation, Chloe Armstrong, Kate Bell

Director: Geoffrey Wright

Revamping and relocating the Bard is nothing new. Among others, Sidney James switched accents from Cockney to American to play Bankie/Banquo for Ken Hughes’ 1955’s Chicago-set, British-filmed Joe Macbeth, Kurosawa went East for Throne of Blood and William Reilly aptly reset Shakespeare’s melodrama, mayhem and murder among the Mafia in Men of Respect.

Here Australian director Wright (collaborating with his Lady Macbeth - Hill - on the screenplay) has turned the Scottish Play into a violent gangland melodrama set in present day Melbourne. Even in this truncated version of the original, a surprising amount of Shakespeare’s dialogue survives, spoken in sometimes disconcerting Australian accents. It certainly adds a touch of zest to the frequently bloody confection to hear hoodlums speaking stagy dialogue before opening fire in the various noisy shootouts that punctuate the drama. Some things work – transforming the Three Witches into a trio of uniform-wearing preternaturally sexy schoolgirls gives credibility to Macbeth’s conversion to the dark side and Wright’s take on the celebrated Burnham Wood climax is ingenious and amusing.

Worthington tries hard as Macbeth, Hill’s topless sleepwalking recalls Francesca Annis (then sensational) nude somnambulism in Polanski’s Macbeth and the other performances are enthusiastic, if variable. Will Gibson’s rich, atmospheric (HD to 35mm) cinematography is a considerable asset. Schoolkids suffering from enforced exposure to Shakespeare would probably have a ball, while Shakespeare, who wrote for money as much as for 'Art', probably wouldn’t have minded the liberties Wright and Co. have taken too much - as long as the fee was agreeable.

Alan Frank

Australia 2006. UK Distributor: Revolver. Colour.
109 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 12 Jul 2007