Alex Cox's cinematic adaptation of The Revenger's Tragedy, the 1606 Jacobean revenge tragedy once attributed to Cyril Tourneur but now commonly accepted to be by Brian Middleton, updates the action from the 17th century Italian court to a freakish, post-apocalyptic 2011 version of Liverpool and loses the apostrophe along the way. It's a bold and experimental offering - part Luhrmann's take on Romeo and Juliet, part Jarman and, most eccentrically of all thanks to Frank Cottrell Boyce's script, part Brookside ("Villain! I'll kill thee!" wail Marc Warren and Justin Salinger's conspiratorial brothers as one of their many plans are foiled, "Fuck off, ya cheap pair o'bastards" Stephen Graham's retorts in full scally, immune to their grandiose threats) - that succeeds thanks to Christopher Eccleston's fine performance as the vengeful and anarchic malcontent Vindici, and the decadent charm of Eddie Izzard's Lussurioso, heir to Derek Jacobi's lip smacking villain, the Duke: the Shakespearean knight resplendent in a funereal suit, silver ponytail, designer shades, pancake and excessive lippy!
The film opens with Eccleston's Vindici arriving back home from a self imposed exile on board not a death ship, like Nosferatu, but a death bus. It appears that the bus has been ambushed on entering this violent and dangerous city, killing all occupants bar the fortunate Vindici. It soon becomes clear though that Vindici is a man who has literally come to Liverpool from death itself. Armed only with a knife and the decaying skull of his bride, poisoned by the Duke on their wedding day for daring to spurn his sexual advances, Vindici longs for the eponymous revenge of the piece from Jacobi's silver haired old villain and reunites with his family to achieve this ambition. With both Cox and Cottrell Boyce being natives of Merseyside, they have great fun transposing the events of the play to their Mad Max style vision of a futuristic, post industrial, corrupt and blighted Liverpool. Their tale is set in a United Kingdom whose southern region had been destroyed by natural disaster (sadly not convincingly explained enough in the finished product, though to know it makes more sense of the young savages who roam the city threatening anyone they suspect of being 'cockney' - a past-time they'll soon regret when challenging Vindici) and it is delightfully embraced by a local crew consisting of production designers Cecilia Montiel and Remi Vaughan-Richards, costumer Monica Aslanian, makeup designer Lesley Brennan and cinematographer Len Gowing. Liverpool itself is a character in the film, when Izzard's Lussurioso stands before doors which bear a logo reminiscent of Imperial Rome, albeit S.P.Q.L (Senatus Populusque Liverpudliensis) for Liverpool as opposed to the more traditional S.P.Q.R for the ancient empire, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a neat touch from the production designer, but it's not: that very legend really is on the door of Liverpool's spectacular St George's Hall.