Hamlet

By no means the best Hamlet ever filmed, but probably the shortest. Michael Almereyda's artsy, modern-day take on Shakespeare's most popular play has an interesting look, several sensational performances (notably from Kyle MacLachlan and Liev Schreiber) and in general works far better than it has any right to. It's the year 2000 and our grunge Hamlet (an...read more

Reviewed by Steve Simels
Rating:

By no means the best Hamlet ever filmed, but probably the shortest. Michael Almereyda's artsy, modern-day take on Shakespeare's most popular play has an interesting look, several sensational performances (notably from Kyle MacLachlan and Liev Schreiber) and

in general works far better than it has any right to. It's the year 2000 and our grunge Hamlet (an effectively moody Ethan Hawke) is still the prince of Denmark, except that Denmark isn't a country — it's a multinational conglomerate headquartered in Manhattan. That basic conceit established,

the familiar story (like, should Hamlet revenge his father's murder?) remains thankfully intact, as does the language, at least up to a point; Almereyda may have cut the play to the bone, but there's not a word here that isn't the Bard's. The movie's difference, of course, is in the details, so

now the ghost of Hamlet's dad (a terrifying Sam Shepard) disappears into a soda machine rather than a parapet, and the young prince's "to be or not to be" speech is delivered in the action-movie aisle of a Blockbuster store. This sort of thing won't work for literary purists, but everybody else

will probably be willing to cut Almereyda some slack, since the point he's making — not a tremendously original one, but a valid one nonetheless — is that the world of the play isn't all that different from our own. In that spirit, the film works simultaneously as an offbeat take on an

oft-told tale and, in Woody Allen's phrase, as a puckish satire on contemporary mores.

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