Cymbeline, 2014, US

By Ryan Javier

This is, of course the classic Shakespearean tragedy, however it is told in a modern setting, similar to that of 1996’s Romero + Juliet. The film coincidently stars John Leguizamo and Vondie Curtis-Hall who also appeared in the 1996 adaption.

This version Cymbaline takes place within the dark cut-throat world of organized crime. Acclaimed actor Ed Harris plays King Cymbaline, as a modern-day gangster whose crown is heavy; burdened by the relationship between his daughter Imogene (portrayed by Dakota Johnson) and her lover, Posthumus Leonatus who is played by Penn Badgley. Posthumus and Imogene secretly marry, however their love is shaken when a cruel and jealous Iachimo (Ethan Hawke) makes a twisted bet with Posthumus. Iachimo disbelieves that that the bond between Posthumus and Imogene is unbreakable and wagers to test the bride’s faithfulness. Posthumus, knowing his wife to be true, accepts the bet. The chaos that ensues is farcical and entertaining to say the least.

Meanwhile, the Queen (Milla Jovovich) is planning her own future and plots to take over the kingdom. With pressure mounting from his overbearing wife, crooked police and his daughter’s plight, Cymbeline’s world begins to crumble and the actions ensues bodies begin to pile up.

The film is well-directed and adapted by Michael Almereyda. Although the settings are modern, the dialogue is true to form and is in iambic pentameter. Cymbeline is a tragedy, a drama and a farce. It’s wrought with as many miss-understandings and miss-interpretations as any Shakespearean play, or any an episode of Three’s Company. A certain level of brevity is achieved whenever the audience knows more than the characters. I think the addition of modern gang-land violence and modern setting will help to generate a wider appeal among viewers who would normally be turned off by the Shakespearean dialogue. I enjoyed this film and recommend it to fans of the Bard, as well as fans of crime dramas. I know the play very well and I felt that Almereyda’s interpretation did the classic story much justice.

Cymbeline will be released on BluRay and DVD on May 15, 2015. The film will be Rated R for strong violence.

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