Film Scouts Reviews

"Richard III"

by Karen Jaehne

Buy this video from

Books from
Buy The Play.

Music from
Buy The Soundtrack.

Who woulda thunk it? "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" could be said in a movie, and it not only works, it's dynamite! In a daringly decadent adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy of the hunchback murderer, King Richard III, Ian McKellan plays John Hurt playing Richard.

The strategy of the movie is to show us how Richard becomes king in the way fascist thugs became dictators during the Thirties. The worlds they lived in did little to discourage them and probably damned well deserved them. The story entertains what could have happened in England, had a little Mussolini lusted for the throne and Edward not abdicated over his passion for an American divorcee. Here, Annette Bening plays the Queen and is quite adequate as an American in England, but barely able to wrap her pretty lips around Elizabethan dialogue.

To his credit, director Richard Loncraine has edited but not simplified what Shakespeare wrote. It's shorter, which means we have to pay close attention. But its difficulty is also its reward: this is the only Richard other than Nixon to aspire to tyranny out of disgust for the rest of the job-applicants.

Maggie Smith does double-duty in reciting Shakespeare with great clarity while boarding a helicopter to hightail it out of the line of fire of her ghastly son. Jim Broadbent has the face of a good bureaucrat and plays the befuddled Englishman so well, we know why the Empire will fall apart, why the center will not hold.

Ian McKellan's talent as this endlessly fascinating, beastly character is so well known to theatre-goers that they may not be surprised or suitably impressed. But to anybody who has just seen "Othello," this movie will renew your faith in Shakespeare. Nothing is better than the Bard well-done, and nothing as tedious as bad Will.

Luciana Arrighi's sets are magnificent, and the spectacular battle are stunningly photographed. The "fall" of Richard literally takes your breath away and sends you out invigorated in the notion that evil will overextend itself. (Is this true? Talk among yourselves, I'm feeling a little verklemmt.)

Richard Loncraine is a director who deserves to be known as inventive and remorselessly funny. Back in 1983, he directed Michael Palin in a little satire called "The Missionary," which has become a cult film, which may have functioned as justification for dumping the idea of the good Samaritan in the Eighties. It's moral is alive and well in his version of Richard III: no good deed goes unpunished.

Back to Richard III

Back to the Press Room

Look for Search Tips

Copyright 1994-2008 Film Scouts LLC
Created, produced, and published by Film Scouts LLC
Film Scouts® is a registered trademark of Film Scouts LLC
All rights reserved.

Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.