Alex Cox
2002, United Kingdom, 109 minutes

And now for something completely different…

The latest from iconoclastic auteur Alex (Repo Man; Sid and Nancy) Cox is a delirious, unclassifiable science-fiction revenge-horror comedy-drama adapted from Thomas Middleton’s 1607 Jacobean play, and transported to a grungy anarchistic nightmare world with pointed parallels to Tony Blair’s England.

As the spy satellites circle the globe, gangs of thugs prowl the gutters of the destroyed cities while body-pierced aristocrats in feather wigs indulge in lavish feasts, perverse sexual entanglements, murder, torture and mayhem.

Vindici (Christopher Eccleston, 28 Days Later) is pissed. He returns to the city thirsting for revenge, since his bride was poisoned on their wedding day for spurning the advances of the loathsome Duke (Derek Jacobi—in hideous makeup that reminds me of Michael Jackson’s mug-shot). So, he lurks in his spider-hole (with his wife’s skull) and plots the destruction of the Duke and his sons. To wipe the bloodthirsty (and incestuous) clan from the face of the earth, Vindici “befriends” the Duke’s eldest son, Lussurioso (a great performance by Eddie Izzard) and gains access to their inner circle. Ironically, Vindici’s blind mother has no qualms about selling her virginal daughter to Lussurioso. Overhead a comet casts its baleful glow on the earthly chaos, and all hell breaks loose.

Stunning production design, hyper-saturated color, and gloriously over-the-top makeup and costumes will probably invite comparisons to Baz Luhrmann’s anachronistic Romeo + Juliet, but Cox’s aesthetic sensibility isn’t grounded in show tunes—it’s pure punk rock. Anarchist one-hit wonder Chumbawumba provides the soundtrack.

—Bruce Fletcher