Although the title of Stacy Title's 1999 film noir reinvention of the great bard's Hamlet may be the best thing about the film, it at least makes for an interesting viewing. Title takes Shakespeare's classic and updates it to a sleazy, dark, hot and decadent modern LA (which when you think about it, is not much a stretch). It's a well made film with some very creative, if not haunting flashback and dream sequences. The cast and their performances, for the most part is top notch. In small roles, Jacqueline Bisset and Mary-Louise Parker shine. Parker, who plays the drug and dog food sampling Julia/Ophelia, is the most sympathetic character in the film among a company of sociopaths, drug dealers, criminals and complete losers.
There lies the problem with the film. The characters are for the most part so unlikable, that one could almost care less if Jack (played deliberately over the top by Jonathan Penner) ever avenges his father's suspicious death. In fact, several times during the viewing I was hoping Title would break with Shakespeare and bump off Jack. His "love" scenes with Parker are crude and unaffectionate, making him even more unlikable. Penner's portrayal can be fun at times, yet it's hard to be compassionate or relate to a guy like Jack (unless maybe you are filthy rich, obsessed and have a fetish for sex in restrooms). When sleazy characters are well written, as they are in Scorsese's films, the audience can get to know, like them, even root for them. Here, they are shallow, heartless, almost totally unattractive, stupid at times and rather uninteresting (no, I did not like them). The climax is overblown and ridiculous. Fortunately and thankfully, few are left alive at the film's conclusion.
Still, despite all the flaws. I can't help but recommend the film for film noir fans or those who are looking for "something different" as the filmmaking itself is interesting and well done. With a better script and well-developed characters, it could have been a very good film. However, for great writing, stick with old Bill's Hamlet