Scousepunk reworking of classic revenge tale
OPENS FEBRUARY 14, CERT 15, 109 MINS
Who else but Alex Cox would relocate Thomas Middleton’s bloodthirsty 17th-century drama to a half-past, half-future, apocalyptic Liverpool of the imagination? With scally gangs, flashbulb media hooligans and savage celebrity cliques, this urban fusion of Derek Jarman and Baz Luhrmann functions as a compelling character in Cox’s bloody pageant.
As Vendici, a sharp-as-fuck schemer serving cold vengeance against the city’s corrupt Duke (Derek Jacobi) via his snake of a brother (Eddie Izzard), Christopher Eccleston has no problem delivering Middleton’s rapier crudities with venom and verve. But many of his co-stars seem alienated by the historical distance.
The chief drawback here, as ever with Cox, is the glut of grand ideas and bold ambitions hobbling characterisation and dramatic flow. The set-pieces feel disconnected and unevenly paced, the characters too crudely drawn to merit empathy. A Revenger’s Tragedy bleeds, bellows and brawls, but never quite lives and breathes. It’s ultimately another fascinating but flawed misfire from one of British cinema’s last punk visionaries.