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Australia 2005
Directed by
Geoffrey Wright
109 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
2 stars

Macbeth (2005)

Synopsis: Macbeth (Sam Worthington) is a loyal henchman to gangland boss, Duncan (Gary Sweet).When three witches inform Macbeth he will become king (namely new crime boss) he and his scheming wife (Victoria Hill) decide to bump off the boss. A major killing of other gang members ensues, taking out Banquo (Steve Bastoni), then the family of Macduff (Lachy Hume) Duncan’s son Malcolm (Matt Doran) joins forces with disgruntled gang members to wage war on Macbeth.

Firstly, I must confess to never having been a lover of Shakespeare, with perhaps the exception of Romeo and Juliet. However Geoffrey Wright’s reworking of The Bard most revered plays seems to me like a travesty, mainly because it comes off as more like a souped-up video clip than a serious rendition of a classic play.

Wright did wonderful things with Romper Stomper, but here I find his vision most misguided. He claims to have been inspired by Melbourne’s gangland wars and wanting to create an image-oriented story, with closely-pruned dialogue. Certainly he achieves an image-oriented film, with some heavily stylized scenes in dark Gothic halls, violent shootouts between rival drug gangs, intermittent cutting to black and white closed-circuit video scenes, and the near soft-porn use of three uniform-clad nymphet schoolgirls as the witches, who, in one scene, engage in some pretty raunchy sex with the drug-addled Macbeth! In fact the look of the film is probably one of its few strengths.

Surely this play is not just about action and murder – it’s also about pride and ambition, but at no time did I ever get the sense of Macbeth as a tragic fallen cood-a-been hero, or even a victim to his overbearing wife, whose love he craved. Worthington seems at a loss to bring any real sense of towering ambition to his character. Lachy Hulme is slightly better as Macduff, whilst Gary Sweet is a limp fish version of Duncan. On a local front, catching small but unexpected glimpses of actors like Mick Malloy and Kym Gyngell didn’t do much for me either in the credibility stakes.

The worst part of Macbeth for me was never actually believing (or understanding!) the dialogue as it came, sometimes almost incoherently, from these heavily Strine-accented actors. The film would have been far better served with a rewrite into modern vernacular.




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