Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 194. Friday, 14 August 1992.
Date: Friday, August 14, 1992, 19:55:53 EDT
Subject: Macbeth Gangster Movie
Browsing through cableland I recently discovered a MACBETH adapatation I hadn't
heard of. The title is MEN OF RESPECT. It was released in 1990 by Columbia
Pictures, written and directed by William Reilly. Set in contemporary New York
city, the movie follows Shakespeare's plot very closely and even retains a few
minor lines of dialogue ("It was a rough night").
Character names are a bit cute:
Mike and Ruthie Battaglia = Lord and Lady Macbeth
Duffy (an Irish gangster) = MacDuff
Banky Como = Banquo
Philly (Phillip) Como = Fleance
Charlie D'Amico = Duncan
Mal and Don D'Amico = Malcolm and Donalbane.
The witches become a fortune teller.
Mike runs a restaurant called Fedora but wants to be a bigtime gangster instead
of a minor hood. He becomes a caporegime by saving Charlie's bacon during a
sudden gang war. Charlie visits him in gratitude, and the plot follows
Shakespeare's closely, including a porter scene. In the turmoil following
Charlie's death, Mike becomes the local crime boss. He then deteriorates
psychologically in familiar fashion.
Reilly adds several scenes to the second half of the story which fill out
Ruthie's part, and has Duffy present when his wife and son are killed
(firebomb; he's inside on the phone). There is no third murderer for Banky.
Most interesting is Reilly's choice to avoid soliloquies, though much of his
dialogue tracks the surface content of Shakespeare's closely. Although his mise
en scene prepares Mike and us for soliloquies at the appropriate moments, the
actor (John Turturro) usually stares blankly at the camera for a moment before
Reilly cuts away. As a result, characterization is considerably thinned and
theme trivialized. The "meaning" is apparently don't kill your buddies and stay
away from fortune tellers. Or maybe don't listen to your wife.
It might be a useful teaching prop for demonstrating how important
Shakespeare's language is, and how vital the soliloquies are.
As I reread this, I see I haven't stressed how closely Reilly tracks
Shakespeare's dialogue. His script is very close to being a prose paraphrase,
with incidental stuff about his gangster setting thrown in.
Has anyone else seen this specimen? Has anyone seen both it and JOE MACBETH (I
haven't)? How do they compare?
Mary Washington College