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Let the Devil Wear Black

3.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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(Jun 27, 2000)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

There's something rotten in the City of Angels, claims the video box. Sure enough, under the dysfunctional dealings of a family business is the story of "Hamlet" retooled for the twilight world of nocturnal L.A. Jack (Jonathan Penner, who cowrote the screenplay with director Stacy Title) is spending a joyless break from graduate school to deal with his father's sudden death. He's disconnected from his unstable lover (Mary-Louise Parker), the daughter of family lawyer Philip Baker Hall, and his mom (Jacqueline Bisset), a withdrawn alcoholic who has let his "2-watt" Uncle Carl (Jamey Sheridan) manage the family fortune. When a mysterious figure tells him that Carl murdered his father, Jack's unsettled feelings are thrown into a restless rage. This official Slamdance 1999 selection is never as moving or insightful as Michael Almereyda's Wall Street "Hamlet" with Ethan Hawke, but Title makes the most of this free adaptation, and drives the film with the simmering energy of a frantic, wound-up hero. It's surprising how well the story lends itself to the double-crossing and devious betrayal of modern neo-noir, only periodically stopping for a Shakespearean rumination (the "Alas, poor Yorick" speech becomes a meditation on a skull fragment, the remains of a brutal execution-style murder). Title makes the fatal architecture of Shakespeare work beautifully and unpretentiously in a modern context, creating a modest but satisfying gritty little thriller. "--Sean Axmaker"

Amazon.com

"There's something rotten in the City of Angels," claims the video box. Sure enough, under the dysfunctional dealings of a family business is the story of Hamlet retooled for the twilight world of nocturnal L.A. Jack (Jonathan Penner, who cowrote the screenplay with director Stacy Title) is spending a joyless break from graduate school to deal with his father's sudden death. He's disconnected from his unstable lover (Mary-Louise Parker), the daughter of family lawyer Philip Baker Hall, and his mom (Jacqueline Bisset), a withdrawn alcoholic who has let his "2-watt" Uncle Carl (Jamey Sheridan) manage the family fortune. When a mysterious figure tells him that Carl murdered his father, Jack's unsettled feelings are thrown into a restless rage. This official Slamdance 1999 selection is never as moving or insightful as Michael Almereyda's Wall Street Hamlet with Ethan Hawke, but Title makes the most of this free adaptation, and drives the film with the simmering energy of a frantic, wound-up hero. It's surprising how well the story lends itself to the double-crossing and devious betrayal of modern neo-noir, only periodically stopping for a Shakespearean rumination (the "Alas, poor Yorick" speech becomes a meditation on a skull fragment, the remains of a brutal execution-style murder). Title makes the fatal architecture of Shakespeare work beautifully and unpretentiously in a modern context, creating a modest but satisfying gritty little thriller. --Sean Axmaker

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Jonathan Penner, Randall Batinkoff, Norman Reedus, Jamey Sheridan, Brooke Taylor
  • Directors: Stacy Title
  • Writers: Jonathan Penner, Stacy Title
  • Producers: Jonathan Penner, Cynthia H. Margulis, James D. Stern, Mark Amin, Matt Salinger
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English, German
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: Unapix / a-Pix Ent.
  • DVD Release Date: June 27, 2000
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 1578482917
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #232,912 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Let the Devil Wear Black" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 21, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Hewing closely as it does to the basic outline of "Hamlet", I expected not to be surprised by "Let the Devil Wear Black"--but this movie is liberated enough to function admirably well on its own with its own quirks, internal logic, and occasional flashes of real wit.
Jonathan Penner, a stunningly beautiful actor, portrays a hero whose history of institutionalization keeps our response to his deep suspicion and contacts with his dead father ambivalent--is there a hideous conspiracy afoot, or is Jack just losing it?? Mary-Louise Parker is suitably fragile as his nut-house sweetheart, and the two share love scenes which, despite their graphic nature, still come off as tender and spontaneous, neither brutal nor obligatory.
The supporting performances were equally strong--not a false note in the bunch. Again, I was surprised to find this movie so engrossing, but I was entirely caught up in Jack's dilemma--and he even made me laugh out loud once or twice.
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Format: DVD
Hamlet set in the sleazy underworld of L.A.
I saw half of this on cable and thought what the hell, So I bought it and was pleasantly surprised. The Acting is Top notch, Great Character actors Maury Chaukin,Phillip Baker Hall. and Mary Louise Parker all do a fine job. The Alas poor Yorik Scene works really Well.
So if you like contemporary updates of the Bards work. Check this one out.
3 and 1/2 stars.
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Format: DVD
Although the title of Stacy Title's 1999 film noir reinvention of the great bard's Hamlet may be the best thing about the film, it at least makes for an interesting viewing. Title takes Shakespeare's classic and updates it to a sleazy, dark, hot and decadent modern LA (which when you think about it, is not much a stretch). It's a well made film with some very creative, if not haunting flashback and dream sequences. The cast and their performances, for the most part is top notch. In small roles, Jacqueline Bisset and Mary-Louise Parker shine. Parker, who plays the drug and dog food sampling Julia/Ophelia, is the most sympathetic character in the film among a company of sociopaths, drug dealers, criminals and complete losers.
There lies the problem with the film. The characters are for the most part so unlikable, that one could almost care less if Jack (played deliberately over the top by Jonathan Penner) ever avenges his father's suspicious death. In fact, several times during the viewing I was hoping Title would break with Shakespeare and bump off Jack. His "love" scenes with Parker are crude and unaffectionate, making him even more unlikable. Penner's portrayal can be fun at times, yet it's hard to be compassionate or relate to a guy like Jack (unless maybe you are filthy rich, obsessed and have a fetish for sex in restrooms). When sleazy characters are well written, as they are in Scorsese's films, the audience can get to know, like them, even root for them. Here, they are shallow, heartless, almost totally unattractive, stupid at times and rather uninteresting (no, I did not like them). The climax is overblown and ridiculous. Fortunately and thankfully, few are left alive at the film's conclusion.
Still, despite all the flaws.
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Format: DVD
Stacy Title, the director of the little-known but effective black comedy The Last Supper (about liberal yuppies who bump off arrogant right-wingers) here presents a modern re-working of Hamlet with lots of gunplay, sleek scene transitions, quirky character traits (check out the pharmacist--very funny small bit), and a real flair for visual panache.
As Jack, the Hamlet guy, Jonathan Penner looks too old to be in grad school, but overall he does a much better job than the horribly miscast Ethan Hawke in Michael Almereyda's 2000 version of Hamlet (whose supporting cast brilliantly outshone the leads). The always excellent Mary-Louise Parker is great as Julia (Ophelia) and in supporting roles, Maury Chaykin, Philip Baker Hall, Jonathan Banks, and Norman Reedus are all effective. Jacqueline Bisset and Jamey Sheridan make a nice evil couple (Jack's mother and uncle, the co-murderers of his father), and Chris Sarandon puts in a silent appearance as the father-ghost in a number of very effective flashbacks and current sightings--by Jack, of course.
It's true that this is a bit thin compared to the real Hamlet--in fact, more than a bit--but the director has sacrificed meat and potatoes for some tasty sauce. There's a lot of zing here and this is a very entertaining film, noticeably different in tone and temperament from any other Hamlet. Here there's a real emphasis on noir elements that come to the surface in sudden flashes or bursts of action making this more a thriller than anything else. Half-naked strippers, Mexican-American thug-cops, a crack-carrying gunman, and a crooked lawyer all contribute to the atmosphere.
Be advised that although the DVD case claims there is a trailer and behind the scenes footage, this is not true. There are NO extras at all. But it is a fun way to spend 90 minutes.
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Format: Amazon Video
I will be honest, I originally watched this film for Norman Reedus. However, I really enjoyed it. It's a nice little dark drama. It can be also considered as a psychological thriller. I liked all of the actors and the storyline. All in all I thought this was a really good film.
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