August 2001

Reviewed by Wilson Morales


Distributor:Lions Gate Film
Director:Tim Blake Nelson
Written By:Brad Kaaya
Produced By:Eric Gitter, Anthony Rhuler and Daniel L. Fried
Cast:Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett, Julia Stiles, Martin Sheen, Andrew Keegan
Running Time:94 minutes

For as long as anyone can remember, William Shakespeare’s plays have been shown in the film industry. There have been countless versions of “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Henry V” and many more. Some of these stories have been told in different forms to reflect today’s era, but never has a film been held back because of its content. The latest Shakespeare play to be adapted to the screen is “O,” short for Othello. The film is set in today’s era in a high school environment. Because of the horrific incident that occurred a few years ago at Columbine High School in Colorado, the powers-that-be held the film back for two years.

In this new version of Othello, Mekhi Phifer stars as Odin Jones, star basketball player for Palmetto Grove Academy. Odin has it all, the reputation, the girlfriend every guy wants, and the envy of his peers. Hugo (Josh Hartnett) doesn’t like O. He’s jealous that his father, the basketball coach, treats O like a son. Wanting to tarnish O’s fame and success, Hugo uses an unsuspecting Desi (Julia Stiles), O’s girlfriend and the Dean’s daughter, in his plan to break O’s confidence. Cassio (Andrew Keegan) is also a pawn in Hugo’s game of deception. False rumors, carefully laid items, and a fragile ego are enough seeds to create the tension Hugo wants. Will O fall for it or will love overcome all odds?

Many versions of Othello have been performed, but its the interpretation that make the difference. This “O” is well casted in the teen environment. Phifer captures the fire and strength that needs to be seen when his ego is bruised. Hartnett displays the frustration when Hugo’s accomplishments are unnoticed. As Desi, Stiles brings chemistry to her relationship to O. Sheen’s performance is the only one that is over the top. The film has a few flaws that make it a bit confusing. The use of secondary characters throws a red herring to the plot. Overall, for a film held back for different reasons, it’s worth the wait. Let the film stand on its own and not amiss controversy.


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