That roguish charmer Richard Harris, who died Oct. 25 at age 72, had a life and career full of dramatic ups and downs but fortunately bowed out on a high note in "My Kingdom," Don Boyd's corrosive reworking of "King Lear" as a gangster picture set in contemporary Liverpool.
Gaunt, silver-haired and leonine, he brings a tragic dimension and savage full-bodied wit and cunning to the aging Sandeman, whose underworld kingdom starts unraveling as a result of a flash of paranoid bravado on his part.
His life is shattered, so Sandeman acts on his long-cherished desire to retire from a brutally successful life of crime.
When his youngest and favorite daughter Jo (Emma Catherwood), an ex-crack addict and current university student, turns her back on him in disgust, he abruptly divides his kingdom between his two other daughters, Kath (Louise Lombard), who has the looks of beauty queen but is a hard-as-nails bordello keeper, and pony-tailed Tracy (Lorraine Pilkington), whose father gave her ownership of a soccer club, apparently a money-laundering operation for Sandeman.
Both women have husbands as unsavory and scheming as they are and both are determined to get the lion's share of a shipment of narcotics their father has ordered from Amsterdam. Sandeman is shocked to discover that both daughters have turned on him in revenge for a lifetime of terror, humiliation and indifference. He suddenly has only a little grandson for companionship as he watches all that he has built up start tumbling down.
"My Kingdom" has a highly intricate plot that seems to have been trimmed here and there, creating occasional but passing haziness. . The film does allow for a Shakespearean grandeur in its contemplation of human destiny -- there are a few moments when the film assumes a stately pace that verges on the static -- but Boyd fortunately never quite forgets that "My Kingdom" functions first and foremost as a no-holds-barred gangster picture, one enriched by the visual grandeur of Liverpool's wintry beauty.
It is further enriched by an array of pungent performances, which include that of Lynn Redgrave as Sandeman's devoted but clear-eyed wife. It is gratifying that in what proved to be his farewell performance, Harris is teamed with an actress of Redgrave's subtlety and stature.
With his roles in the current hit "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and this film, Harris gave audiences something wonderful to remember him by.
MPAA rating: Unrated.
Times guidelines: Extreme gangster-picture violence, blunt language, some sex.
Richard Harris ... Sandeman
Lynn Redgrave ... Mandy
Aidan Gillen ... Det. Sgt. Barry Puttnam
Louise Lombard ... Kath
Lorraine Pilkington ... Tracy
A First Look Pictures release of a Sky Pictures production co-produced by the Take 2 Partnership. Director Don Boyd. Producers Neal Weisman and Gabriele Bacher. Executive producers William Turner, Nadine Mellor. Screenplay Nick Davies and Don Boyd. Cinematographer Dewald Aukema. Editor Adam Ross. Music supervisor Ivan Chandler. Production designer Luana Hanson. Art director David Endley. Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes.
Exclusively at the Cecchi Gori Fine Arts, 8556 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 652-1330.
He brings cunning and wit to the reworking of "King Lear."
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