BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Friday, March 23, 2012
3/23/12 at 4:49 AM
It's Shakespeare! It's the politically relevant movie of the year! It's a 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger action-film!
It's never easy to target something simple for people to latch onto when a work is as complex and creative as this modern adaptation of one of the Bard's most grim and challenging works.
"Coriolanus" is a tragedy built on ideas, revolving around debates of political infighting and a lead character who is unsympathetic to the point that his arrogance and pride are off-putting.
It's hardly an audience-friendly story, but Ralph Fiennes does his best to bind relatable subplots of family tension and intense warfare with the surplus of subtext.
I would refer to Fiennes' portrayal of Coriolanus, the great soldier and banished hero of Rome, as a hair-on-fire performance if the man who looks to lead the people - but who despises the Roman citizenry - had any hair.
Fiennes stalks around, barks orders and insults, and - in the imagery of a man at war with the world as well as himself - his bald dome dripping in blood is a savage sight.
In adapting the 400-year-old play into a present-day tale of military might and prodigious pride, Fiennes is more subtle.
It will be intriguing to see what work he conquers next, but Fiennes begins by making one of Shakespeare's most tough-minded works one of somewhat easy access as Coriolanus joins forces with a defeated foe (Gerard Butler) to bring down Rome.
The politics that follow are as believable as any happening inside a Beltway backroom.
Fiennes is helped greatly by the fact that Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox, in particular among the eclectic cast, join him in acting as though they live these words. Or at least they act as if they have longed for the chance to do Shakespeare on film, an increasingly rare occurrence.
"Coriolanus" is proof that these works still have life, and power, that transcend time.
Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler,
Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain,
Theater: Circle Cinema
Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes
Rated: R (some bloody violence)
Quality: (on a scale of zero to four
Original Print Headline: Shakespeare tragedy gets modern update
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
Brian Cox (left), Ralph Fiennes and John Kani star in "Coriolanus." Fiennes plays Coriolanus, the great soldier and banished hero of Rome. Courtesy
Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain star in "Coriolanus," a 400-year-old Shakespeare play adapted into a present-day tale of military might and prodigious pride. Courtesy