Film: Revengers Tragedy, Cameo
By Sarah Barrell
The Independent (thanks Spoot)
Seen by 19th-century critics as the demented work of a diseased mind, it seems fitting that Thomas Middleton's 1607 play Revengers Tragedy has been chosen by British director Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid & Nancy) for transfer to celluloid.Traditionally the territory of the RSC, Jacobean tragedies are seen by Cox, and the screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, as having as much cinematic currency as any offering by the Bard.
Ten years after his wife's murder, outlaw Vindici (Christopher Eccleston) is intent on revenge. With the help of his brother, he aims to destroy the Duke who poisoned her (Derek Jacobi), along with his degenerate wife (Diana Quick) and sons. Vindici's mission, however, is complicated with the seduction of his sister by the Duke's villainous first born, Lussurioso (Eddie Izzard).
However, this determinedly modern interpretation is so concerned with making contemporary cultural nods that it convulses under the effort, leaving the intricate story somewhat blurred. Set in Cottrell Boyce's native Liverpool, this vision of the city is as much apocalyptic as futuristic. The place is made over by applying the carnival colours and trashy Vegas sequins of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, and then dulling them with a nicotine-stained lens. The black comic tragedy's doom-filled portent is felt in its grubby yellowing skies, rooms lit like sewers and daylight as grey as old porridge. The only things that sparkle here are the character's body piercings.
Revengers Tragedy is Cox's Sid and Nancy one Jubilee on, with an aesthetic so rooted in British punk camp that it begs a Vivienne Westwood logo. Pointing an accusing (henna-tipped) finger at Blair's fetid Britain, the proles of this city are the multicultural masses of Sangatte, and the aristocracy is a bloated, corrupt breed of chalky-faced degenerates.
Jacobi turns in a comically kitsch performance as the evil patriarch. Sophie Dahl is cast in her first film role as the aristocrat Imogen, playing the exquisitely powdered face of a martyred princess whose untimely death is greeted with a Diana-esque sea of flowers. But despite sterling performances from Eccleston and Izzard, the film is too concerned with flexing its inventively tattooed limbs than emotionally involving its audience with its characters' bloody trials.