Dir: Geoffrey Wright. Aust. 2006.109mins.

Shakespeare's bloodthirsty Scottish warlords are transportedto contemporary Melbourne, recent home to Mafia-style vendettas, tit-for-tat slayingsand alleged police corruption, for Geoffrey Wright's Macbeth. The result makes for a good genre fit, casting the centuries old plot in a new light with suavely dressed killers,beautiful women and a steady flow of beatings, knifings, machine-gunnings and close-upgarrotings.

Once you get beyond a 21st-centuryAustralian gangster being greeted as the 'Thane of Cordor',there's much to admire in this rich Shakespearean update, although it lacks thestars, gloss or gleeful wit of fellow compatriot Baz Luhrmann's reworking of Romeo+ Juliet.

Macbeth shouldplay well at arthouses both at home (Sept 21 release)and to a lesser extent internationally (it premieres at Toronto), although is unlikely to cross over intomultiplex audiences. Non-English-speaking audiences provided with captions may wellfare better than those who have to grapple unaided with the range of Australiantwangs.

The levels of violence, drugsand nudity may deter the educational market for younger students, although olderteens seeking a robust version of their set text should ensure relatively healthyDVD sales and rentals.

Director Geoffrey Wright firstmade an impact with his debut 1992 feature RomperStomper, which cast a young Russell Crowe as a viciousneo-Nazi Melbournegang leader. His USteen slasher CherryFalls (2000) was something of a disappointment, but Macbeth helps him partly restate some of his directorial panache.

Wright and Victoria Hill (co-adapter,co-producer and leading lady) have freely hacked, trimmed and rearranged the classictext, retaining the most famous lines and situations, though not always in Shakespeare'sorder.

The first 10 minutes is an all-action,no-talk drugs deal gone wrong, with plenty of pounding guitar-based music, so it'ssomething of a culture clash when the 300-year-old dialogue kicks in.

Many of the subsequent creativeupdatings on the familiar plot work well. The three witchesare presented as barely-pubescent schoolgirls gleefully desecrating a city cemetery.Later they join a drug-addled Macbeth (Worthington)in a naked romp in the cellars of 'Dunsinane', the Macbeths'stunning out-of-town mansion.

And it's masses of ingested headydrugs that allow Macbeth to see the slashed and dripping ghost of murdered gang-kingBanquo (Bastoni) and so thoroughlyspoil his wife's (Hill) beautifully dressed dinner party.
Other ideas are less satisfying and fall flat. Wright and Hill have added an undercoverpolice subplot, with hand-held cameras recording the gang's secret deeds and officerssilently watching playbacks. But it leads nowhere, mainly because there is no re-assignableShakespearean dialogue to sustain it.

Sam Worthington (Somersault)is impressive in the title role. Sporting floppy hair and designer stubble, he growsfrom dissatisfied gang lieutenant to driven dictator dressed in rock god satin suitsand jangling gold jewellery. As his ultra-pushy trophywife Lady Macbeth, Hill has a model's looks and catwalk strut, although articulationof some very famous lines can be a problem.

Gary Sweet (Duncan) and Lachy Hulme (Macduff) deliver classic quoteswith more assurance, while Steve Bastoni takes an impressivestab at the unwary kingpin Banquo.

Wright has clearly given histechnical team a measure of freedom and they repay him handsomely, with outstandinglighting and photography, gorgeously rich interior designs and rock-star costumingall coalescing to a glowing frenzy of blood, decadence and mayhem.

Reds and crimsons dominate, fromblood-soaked bodies and crimson curtains swirling behind massed candles to the criss-crossing target lasers of dozens of machine-guns.

Production companies
Mushroom Pictures
Paradigm Hyde Films
Film Finance Corporation Australia
Film Victoria

International sales
Arclight Films International

Australian/New Zealanddistribution
Palace Films

Executive producers
Michael Grudinski
Gary Hamilton
Greg Sitch
Antonio Zeccola

Martin Fabinyi

Geoffrey Wright
Victoria Hill from Shakespeare's play

Will Gibson

Jane Usher

Production design
David McKay

John Clifford White

Main cast
Sam Worthington
Victoria Hill
Lachy Hulme
Gary Sweet
Steve Bastoni
Mick Molloy
Kat Stewart