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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Ian McKellen
Annette Bening
Maggie Smith
Nigel Hawthorne
Ian McKellen.
Directors
Richard Loncraine.
Screenwriters
Richard Loncraine.
Running Time
104 minutes

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Richard III
Good Bard


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Plot
The classic Shakespearean play about a murderously scheming king staged in a alternative fascist England setting.


Review
Since Richard III, Shakespeare’s classic dissection of power politics and evil’s allure is, rather than history, an outrageous piece of Tudor propaganda, there really is no reason why it can’t be removed from the 15th century. And so several years ago, Richard Eyre gave us an arresting, sharply written, intelligent interpretation of the play, starring Ian McKellen and staged with 1930s Fascist trappings at London’s National Theatre.
That production was the inspiration for Richard Loncraine’s daring, flashy film, for which he and the actor worked as screenwriters and in which McKellen authoritatively revisits one of the greatest roles in the English language.
Opening deliberately in the style of a Die Hard action yarn, this Richard introduces its bitter, twisted protagonist as the military genius victorious in a civil war that has rent a fictitious England in the 30s. His first sour soliloquy becomes a public toast at a victory ball; the court is composed of pinstriped gents, officers in black, and women in slinky satin.
Hawthorne’s touching Duke Of Clarence is assassinated in a steaming bath; Richard’s lady in red, Lady Anne (Scott Thomas), is a tortured dope fiend, and his nemeses the Rivers, Queen Elizabeth (Bening) and her brother “Earl” (Robert Downey Jnr., cheekily stealing scenes as a Panama-hatted sport) are American arrivistes.
This provocative stylisation serves the content well and emphasises the steamroller effect of evil, from one deviant’s resentful power lust to a popular movement. McKellen, rejecting the comic temptations contemporary actors commonly snatch in the hunchback, conveys the sardonic, savage wit but plays the dark malice to the hilt. Everyone in the cast is a strong Somebody, from Queen Mother Maggie Smith to assassin Adrian Dunbar.
The only drawback of this
“re-imagining” is that it is dispassionately cold in its sustained artifice, despite the splashy nods to modern cinemagoers’ frames of reference — sex, violence, explosions — which do pep up the popular appeal without condescension or gutting the text. Largely this is a fascinating, cerebral exercise, one that is acutely interesting rather than emotionally involving, but absolutely a notable cinematic tackling of the Bard.


Verdict
Rigorous adaptation of the notoriously "difficult" play.


Reviewed by Angie Errigo

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Empire Star Rating

Richard III

Unfortunately Richard III is not a widely seen film, and has not nearly enough of the acclaim it truly deserves. This 1930's adaption is an original and powerful idea, that works very well in terms of modern-day Shakespeare adaptions. A beautifully shot film with lustrous scenery, locations and sets, accompanied by suitable and elegant costumes. Sir Ian McKellen gives an Oscar worthy performance (thankfully recognised by the BAFTAs and Golden Globes) as a merciless, emotionless tyrant who's amb... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Steviebow at 19:38, 19 February 2007 | Report This Post


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