**** (four stars)
Richard Mowe for The Scotsman
Director: Alex Cox Starring: Christopher Eccleston, Derek Jacobi and Eddie Izzard
THE return to Liverpool of the mysterious stranger - played by Christopher Eccleston in this blood-soaked, stylised spin on the Jacobean tragedy by Thomas Middleton - has shades of Alex Coxís own reappearance on these shores after two decades living mainly in North America.
But there the tenuous similarity ends. His post-apocalyptic vision of a northern city full of roaming gangs and scenes of desolate urban disintegration was filmed in Coxís home town, which the director hopes to promote as a film-making centre.
Cox who is best known for his sci-fi debut feature Repo Man and Sid and Nancy, the heroin-fuelled biopic of the Sex Pistolsís Sid Vicious - and also as a sometime BBC Moviedrome presenter - makes what might have seemed a labyrinthine journey fairly leap to life.
Revengers Tragedy has the same irreverent and anarchic feel as Derek Jarmanís Jubilee, crossed with some of the energy of Baz Luhrmannís reinvention of Romeo + Juliet . The film deals with pertinent themes of the north-south cultural and economic divide and of a society obsessed with mercurial gain, sybaritic pleasures and hedonism spiced with an uncontrollable violence.
Eccleston brings his gritty and athletic presence to Vindici, whose bride, it transpires, in fragmented flashbacks, was poisoned on their wedding day ten years ago by Derek Jacobiís southerner, who now rules the city with a bunch of corrupt thugs, among them his brood of evil sons. Eddie Izzard plays the first in the line of succession, and brings a louche humour to his portrait of ruthless ambition on the make.
Although the writer, Frank Cottrell Boyce, has reinvented the playís setting to an England of 2011, in which the south has been destroyed by a comet, he keeps the original verse.
The film was made on a tight budget but the look suits the prevailing atmosphere of grungy desolation, all laced together by a thumping score by the band Chumbawamba.