Coriolanus

The problem with many adaptations of Shakespeare is that people make it too hard. They’re usually so enthralled by their admiration for the work that they can’t play it right. They don’t see that Mercutio is only tragic because he is so hilarious and irreverent. They don’t see the human in Iago and make him into a two-dimensional fiend. They don’t see that Brutus loves Caesar. Everything gets turned up to eleven, all the time.

Ralph Fiennes has gone and taken one of the hardest of Shakespeare’s history plays, Coriolanus, and made it even more so. The guns in it aren’t Baz Luhrmann’s: this is Shakespeare turned into Call of Duty. Explosions, bombastic music, and spittle set up the rage of Caius Martius Coriolanus, played by Fiennes himself. And let it be said now, “Please Ralph, stop doing that thing you do with your lower lip when you’re busy acting.” Honestly, he’s been doing it since he was Lord Voldemort and I’ve had enough. He’s a solid actor, and does a fairly good rage fit, but I’ve had enough of the lower lip thing. It’s especially incongruous with Coriolanus’ fierce pride, as it makes him sound very plebeian.

But the point is that this is confused. Fiennes may have wanted to summon up reverberations from the dark currents of violence we find in contemporary world conflict, but it weighs down an already weighty play. Most of the acting doesn’t help. Only Brian Cox and Vanessa Redgrave seem to get it (and kudos to them). Otherwise, it’s mostly people acting manic, lots of “hard men” arguing and gesticulating. And this doesn’t bear out. For example, Gerard Butler might make a good hard man, but he’s crap whenever Aufidius isn’t in a vein-popping rage.

This was Fiennes’ directorial debut, and in that sense, we can say it’s not too bad. Fair enough, Ralph, fair enough. But without that consideration, this film is stuck midway between video games and Al Pacino’s Looking for Richard (1996).

[Hopefully you’ve seen already, but it seems they have found him!]

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