Director Michael Almereyda‘s film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline will hit theaters on March 13 with more explosives, violence and leather jackets than ever would have existed in Shakespeare’s time. Instead of the British and the Romans, it’s a modern-day battle between corrupt cops and drug dealers.
The film appears as though it will retain its Shakespearean dialogue along with the play’s original names. It stars Ed Harris as the drug kingpin Cymbeline, Dakota Johnson (of Fifty Shades of Grey fame) as his daughter Imogen, Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl himself) as her lover Posthumus, Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) as Posthumus’ backstabbing friend Iachimo, and Milla Jovovich as the scheming Queen.
Although it was originally called Anarchy, the film likely changed its title to its namesake play in order to avoid confusion with television series Sons of Anarchy, which also involves lawless bikers and drug dealers. In the trailer, The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Rooney has dubbed the film “a mash-up of Sons of Anarchy with Game of Thrones,” but in the rest of his review he also said it was a “second-rate Romeo + Juliet.”
Judging from the trailer, there’s no way to tell yet if Cymbeline is in fact worse off than Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Shakespeare adaptation. There are certainly similarities between the two films, everything from the star-studded cast (hello again, John Leguizamo) to the dialogue and over-the-top drama harken back to Romeo + Juliet.
Even though I have to admit Baz Luhrmann’s movie was not my thing, it was still exciting to watch a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic. I don’t see how Almereyda’s Cymbeline can be much worse. The premise of the two plays are similar: two young lovers marry, they get in trouble for it, drama ensues, and everything goes downhill. Both films look like they’re staying true to their respective plays and, from what I saw, the acting doesn’t look half bad. Harris’ Cymbeline is convincingly troubled, Jovovich’s evil Queen is promising, Badgley’s Posthumus is not preposterous at all, and even Johnson’s Imogen can be taken seriously despite her last role. We don’t see much of Hawke in the trailer, but I assure you, he’ll be there wreaking havoc like the rest of them. After all, he and Johnson seem to be the cast members intended to drive audiences to the theater.
So… if you like action, violence, explosions, Sons of Anarchy and/or Game of Thrones, Ethan Hawke (and John Leguizamo), Shakespeare, and Romeo + Juliet, you’ll probably want to watch this movie for all its badass worth. There’s something in it for everyone, it seems.
Cymbeline arrives in theaters and on VOD on March 13, 2015.