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'Cymbeline' gets 'Sons of Anarchy' treatment in new movie

Shakespeare's 'Cymbeline' gets 'Sons of Anarchy' treatment in new movie
Ed Harris, Ethan Hawke and Dakota Johnson star in new 'Cymbeline' movie, adapted from Shakespeare

More than 10 years after modernizing one of Shakespeare's most famous plays, "Hamlet," filmmaker Michael Almereyda and actor Ethan Hawke have turned their revisionist attention to one of the Bard's lesser-known works, the ambiguous historical drama "Cymbeline."

The new movie adaptation, which recently premiered at the Venice Film Festival, is scheduled to open in the U.S. in 2015. Some of the early buzz has pegged the movie as Shakespeare meets "Sons of Anarchy," with its contemporary milieu of bikers, booze and bad hair.

Ed Harris plays the title character, who in the original play is a monarch but in the new movie is the leader of a gang of bikers in a small, blue-collar town. His daughter (Dakota Johnson) has secretly married, setting in motion a series of conspiracies and wicked plots. Hawke plays the supporting character Iachimo, who complicates the scenario. 

Shakespearean experts have frequently labeled "Cymbeline" as a "problem" play, which means that it doesn't fit neatly into the comedy or tragedy categories. The drama, which was one of Shakespeare's last, is believed to have been based on ancient Celtic legends.  

Reviews of Almereyda's new movie from Venice so far have been harsh, with the Hollywood Reporter noting that the "central conceit simply doesn’t hang together well enough to create credible dramatic stakes." 

A review from Variety concluded that the "interpretation feels more out-of-time than ever," though the "film dazzles with its colors and textures."

Almereyda's "Hamlet," which was released in 2000, set the tragic play in contemporary New York, with Hawke playing the title character as a disaffected hipster rebelling against his corporate parents. 

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT 

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