That high school English class where we read Shakespeare's Macbeth would have been a whole lot more interesting had we watched Geoffrey Wright's sexually charged, rage filled adaptation. Wright's Macbeth doesn't quite energize Shakespeare like Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet did, but it doesn't waste time doing what it was meant to do: entertain.
The film stars leading man of the future Sam Worthington as a skilled and loyal thug in kingpin Duncan's (Gary Sweet) gang. After a drug deal goes bad, Worthington's Macbeth cleans up the mess and is given the Cawdor territory for his efforts, fulfilling his ecstasy-induced prophetic vision. The three weird sisters from the vision also predict Macbeth will become the kingpin, and he takes steps, with the support of his unhinged wife, to make it happen. His murderous ways, however, will lead to the total fulfillment of the prophecy, where another thug, Banquo (Steve Bastoni), will father a line of kings.
Most of us are going to be familiar with the story of Macbeth going in, again, thanks to high school English, but for anyone who isn't, this updated tragedy remains a vicious, violent crime film that adds a serrated edge to the Shakespeare tale.
Much of the edge comes from the leads Sam Worthington and his Lady Macbeth, Victoria Hill, who tap into the primal nature of both characters. Worthington is especially impressive, pushing Macbeth toward Tony Montana territory while maintaining the integrity of the character. Hill, too, is startling as the diabolical Lady Macbeth, but never loses sight of the emotional core of the character, her role as a childless mother.
The rest of the cast gets credit for pulling off the Shakespearean tongue, which is a minor miracle considering their youth. But that youthfulness, combined with the modern underworld setting, is necessary to give this adaptation the aggression we've come to expect from a Wright film.
Wright, however, is no visionary. He's certainly no Luhrmann. Macbeth may be aggressive, but electrifying it is not. It never takes the additional steps, cinematically or thematically, to truly distinguish itself from the other crime films we can see any day of the week. But I've long said you have to try hard to screw up an adaptation of material as eternal as Shakespeare's work. (She's the Man, I'm looking at you.) Macbeth isn't superior Shakespeare, but it is still Shakespeare. That puts it leagues ahead of most of the remakes and adaptations we are used to getting. Sit back and enjoy.
We're lucky we get the chance to watch the film. Don't hold the fact that we only get a brief 'making of' feature against the disc.