Instead of Othello, great warrior, we have Odin (Mekhi Phifer), basketball star. His loveDesdemona becomes Desi (Julia Stiles), and duplicitous friend Iago is not Hugo (Josh Hartnett).Consumed by jealousy because of Odin’s success, and feeling unloved by his father (MartinSheen), Hugo sets about destroying Odin and everyone else by planting the seeds of jealousy inhis mind. The more familiar you are with Othello, the better this plays, as it follows Shakespearevery closely,…and the updates are great fun. I’m not sure if the film works as well if you don’thave the play to bounce against — suspension of disbelief becomes harder, I suspect, and thewhole Daddy-doesn’t-love-me routine is weak, diluting the power of one of Shakespeare’sgreatest villains. While not up the recent (and brilliant) BBC updating of Othello to the Londonpolice, this is still a lively and engaging film.
The mix is extremely powerful, making this one of the loudest DVDs I’ve yet to encounter.The music, therefore, sounds fabulous. The sound effects have a strong surround presence too,especially during the basketball sequences, when the environmental effect is at its mostconvincing. The dialogue is clear and distortion-free.
The picture is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The colours are absolutelystunning: rich and deep, with strong contrasts and well nigh perfect blacks. The flesh tones arebang-on, and the image extremely sharp. Once or twice I caught some edge enhancement halos,but generally these were absent too.
Director Tim Blake Nelson’s commentary is scene-specific in the extreme, bordering on theshot-specific. He talks about the purpose of just about everything on the screen. The technicalanalysis is taken further yet in Nelson and DP Russell Lee Fine’s commentary on the fourbasketball scenes in a separate analysis. Somewhat more theme and story-oriented are the (brief)interviews with Nelson and stars Stiles, Phifer and Hartnett. There are four deleted scenes, againwith optional commentary by Nelson. Finally, there are trailers for The Wash, Cube 2, Rose Red,American Psycho 2, The Rules of Attraction and State Property. Surprisingly, no trailer for Oitself, unless it’s hidden in an Easter Egg. This is often the case with Lions Gate releases, andthe key is usually to select the Lions Gate logo, but I was unable to do so (so there may not beanything there). The menu is the deluxe deal: animated and scored all the way until the third levelof pages.
Controversial because of timing (coming out in the wake of high school killings in the US),the film is now best appreciated as an interesting, at times arresting, transposition ofShakespeare.
Special Features List
- Director’s commentary
- Cast and Director Interviews
- Basketball Scene Analysis
- Deleted Scenes with Commentary