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Let the Devil Wear Black (1999).

September 11, 2009

The Scoop:
All you really need to know is that this is an update of “Hamlet” set in the L.A. Jewish underworld.

It’s a promising concept, but ultimately falls flat. Jack (Jonathan Penner) is depressed about his father’s death, especially when his mother (Jacqueline Bisset) marries his uncle (Jamey Sheridan). Thanks to a mysterious informer and a little detective work, Jack discovers that his uncle killed his father, then plots out his revenge. Meanwhile his girlfriend (Mary-Louise Parker) slowly goes insane.

The problem is that nothing seems to hang together. There’s very little plot progression and, in fact, if you didn’t know the basic story of “Hamlet” you’d probably have not idea what was happening at all. Only the barest outline of the “Hamlet” story remains, replaced with a lot of scenes that go nowhere and with reams of pretentious, pseudo-philosophic, pseudo-gritty dialogue. It’s slow and dreary, and even at 89 minutes if feels way too long.

Not content with being a wannabe Shakespeare, director Stacy Title (who also co-wrote with Penner) also tries to be a wannabe Tarantino. And “Let the Devil Wear Black” is nothing more than just another late entry in the wave of Tarantino imitations that flooded indie cinemas in the ’90s.

Best Bit:
“If brains were cars, you’d have a boat.”

Side Note:
The title “Let the Devil Wear Black” of course comes from Shakespeare’s play — Hamlet says it to Ophelia in Act III, Scene 2.

Companion Viewing:
Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet” (1996) for a good treatment of the original play, and Ethan Hawke’s “Hamlet” (2000) for another updated version.


Take a Look:
The trailer:

Some NSFW bullshit philosophy:

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