Did anyone ask for yet another version of Hamlet? There's the one by Sir Laurence Olivier, and two more recent ones by Mel Gibson and Kenneth Branagh. The new one stars Ethan Hawke (Snow Falling on Cedars, The Newton Boys), probably the first actor near Hamlet's age to portray the Dane on screen. This time, events move to the present day in New York. Denmark is now Denmark Corporation, and something is rotten there. Hamlet (Hawke) is now a film student who records anything and everything. His father (Sam Shephard, The Pelican Brief, Snow Falling on Cedars) is dead and his mother (Diane Venora, True Crime, The Insider) quickly marries Claudius (Kyle MacLachlan, Time Code, The Trigger Effect). Yes, it's a familiar story.

No effort is made to speak with an accent. All the actors speak "American" English using Shakespeare's words. The effect is a little strange at first, and will probably turn away younger viewers. Delivery is also all over the place. Some lines are whispered, others are shouted, and the result is that many of the lines are inaudible. The film looks good, but is lacking heart. Hawke's career consists of many slacker roles, and here, he turns Hamlet into they typical Generation Xer. Hamlet is brooding, mysterious, and kind of boring. Hamlet slouches and speaks his soliloquies into his video camera. Hawke's lethargy pervades the entire film, taking something away from the original play. Other actors fare better. Bill Murray (Cradle Will Rock, Rushmore) is great as Polonius. Each time Murray takes a non-comedic role, he proves that he is a versatile actor. Julia Stiles (10 Things I Hate About You, Down To You), who seems to make a career out of doing modern updates on classic plays, does well as Ophelia, especially since the majority of her role is to sulk.

Director/adapter Michael Almereyda (Trance) intercuts interesting visuals with the inane. The ghost of Hamlet's father walks into a Pepsi machine. Hamlet delivers his most famous lines in a Blockbuster video. And this time, the play penned by Hamlet is now a movie. Hawke's sulleness complements the dark foreboding sets, but saps the life out of much of the rest of the movie. It looks like Almereyda at some points was trying to make a point on something, but most of it is lost. If, for some reason, someone watching Hamlet did not know the source material, it would be hard to follow the story, especially near the end. Hamlet is an interesting experiment, but one that quickly fades into mediocrity.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay
1 hour, 53 minutes, Rated R for some violence.

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