Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
Revengers Tragedy (2003)

In decades to come, Alex Cox may be remembered as one of the most distinctive, and least commercial, directors ever to stand behind a camera.

A maverick filmmaker with a punk sensibility and a total disregard for Hollywood, Cox's best films, like "Repo Man", "Walker", and "Sid & Nancy", are bizarre assemblages of genre conventions, anarchic undercurrents, and cult casting.

His latest film, an update of Thomas Middleton's 1607 play "The Revenger's Tragedy", is no exception.

Set in 2011 in a post-apocalyptic Liverpool, "Revengers Tragedy" stars Christopher Eccleston as Vindici, a malcontent who is eager for revenge after the Duke (Derek Jacobi) killed his wife on their wedding night.

Updating the Jacobean verse with tattoos, piercings, table football, video monitors, and all kinds of costume-box rifling, "Revengers Tragedy" is a manic version of Middleton's play.

It exaggerates the play's confused identities, deliberate miscommunications, and sarcastic asides into an overblown exercise in outright camp.

Revenge plays were concerned with doing away with the corrupt society of the present in favour of a new order. Drawing on his punk roots, Cox emphasises the anarchic impulses of Vindici's plotting.

He works in elements of today's royal family (Princess Diana's funeral) and ending the film with a portrait of Queen Elizabeth that deliberately invokes the Sex Pistols' anti-Jubilee revels. It's a daring statement, but one that's ultimately let down by the film's rough edges.

Seemingly rushed through production, with a cast of varying professionalism (some of the ex-Brookside actors look spectacularly out of their depth) and moments that are painfully amateurish, "Revengers Tragedy" ultimately annoys as much as it exhilarates.

The revenge genre was always about frustration - the characters' sexual desires are never sated, the revengers' vengeance is never extreme enough - but here the real tragedy is that frustration has become the rule, not the subtext.

End Credits

Director: Alex Cox

Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce

Stars: Christopher Eccleston, Eddie Izzard, Derek Jacobi, Diana Quick, Justin Salinger, Marc Warren, Margi Clarke

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror

Length: 109 minutes

Cinema: 14 February 2003

Country: UK

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