There's nothing novel about restaging Shakespeare in modern dressjust add cell phones and iPods, button-snap cowboy shirts, Prada suits, and machine guns. The trick is to mutually illuminate the Elizabethan and the modern. Films like 10 Things I Hate About You and Romeo + Juliet pulled it off; this Melbourne mobster adaptation of Macbeth, not so much. Director Geoffrey Wright ( Romper Stomper) and co-writer Victoria Hill, who also plays Lady M., greatly abridge, turn soliloquy into voice-over, and rearrange a few key speeches. None of which is a sin: Macbeth should remain a living, breath-ing document. But the rush into gunfights and car chases pushes the text in all the wrong directions. As written, the 400-year-old words are still fresher than anything ripped from Miami Vice. And what, really, don't we already know about honor among thieves? Only in the movie's later going, as the usurper (Sam Worthington) begins to bog down in blood, does the cast stop rushing its lines and the film move nearer to the topical and tragic. Only not near enough. The grim cycle of retribution, the vengeful orphan sons of Duncan and Banquo, the wailing widowsa more fitting adaptation would have been Macbeth in Mosul.
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.