It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Men of Respect" is a strange movie indeed, "Macbeth" done as a tragedy set inside the crime syndicate. All is darkness and off-screen rumblings, thunder and lightning, and a minor earthquake strikes New York as the characters plot and scheme against each other. At first the movie doesn't insist too much on the parallels with Shakespeare, but by the last half hour the Lady Macbeth character is wandering in the back yard with a flashlight and complaining about the spots in the linen of the family restaurant, while Macbeth is bragging, "All of these guys is of woman born. They can't do s - - - to me." That is actually not such a terrible line, and indeed William Reilly's screenplay ("Adapted from The Tragedy of Macbeth, by William Shakespeare") has some nice dialogue, of which my favorite is when a mobster is talking about a colleague who has just been killed: "He's history. Tomorrow, he'll be geography." That got a laugh, and so did another scene, after the hero is told that he will not die until the stars fall from the sky. Then there is a fireworks exhibition, and one of the hero's sidekicks says, "Jeez! It looks just like stars, fallin' from the sky!" The problem is that this movie is not intended as a comedy.
Or maybe it is. Some of the moments have real wit, and yet the over-all impression is of someone trying to drown the characters in the weight of guilt, blood, murder, and literary associations. The movie stars John Turturro as Mike Battaglia, a Mafioso who moves from the fringes of the outfit to center stage as the story progresses.
One by one he wipes out his rivals, even stabbing a couple of them while they sleep, while his wife, Ruthie (Katherine Borowitz) eggs him on and gives him counsel.
The opening scene of the movie is incredibly dense with detail - it's as hard to follow as the set-up for "Miller's Crossing," with all the names and plot lines. But soon we begin to discern the guiding hand of the Bard, as Turturro and his friend stumble into the parlor of an old fortune teller, who tells him essentially what the witches told Macbeth. What follows is a dark, murky version of some of the same kinds of scenes Scorsese did in "GoodFellas" and Demme in "Married to the Mob," scenes in which middle-aged guys in suits pull guns on each other and grill steaks.
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