Hard on the heels of Francis Ford Coppola, who reworked Shakespeare's King Lear for his Godfather Part III crime saga, comes writer-director William Reilly, who is making his feature debut by turning the Bard's Macbeth into a modern-day Mob tragedy. John Turturro (Miller's Crossing) stars as Mike Battaglia, a hood who proves his worth in the opening shootout by slaying the enemies of his padrino, Charlie D'Amico (Rod Steiger). In no time he's D'Amico's fair-haired boy. But at home, Mike's sexy wife, Ruthie (Katherine Borowitz), is nudging him to ice D'Amico and take over.
You grasp the Macbeth parallels quickly, but Reilly keeps hammering at them. Peter Boyle, who plays the caporegime, is named Matt Duffy — Macduff, get it? Or how about Dennis Farina as loan shark Bankie Como, for Banquo? A local psychic — Lilia Skala stands in for all three of the weird sisters — actually tells Battaglia that "not a man of woman born can harm you." I reached my limit when Lady Battaglia scrubs her husband's bloody clothes in a bathtub to get out that damned spot.
Turturro and Borowitz (his real-life wife) are committed actors, but the movie remains exasperatingly lifeless. Reilly's script is so tied to Macbeth that the drama plays out like an academic exercise. In the January movie doldrums, Men of Respect earns respect for trying to be more than fluff. But when the hurly-burly's done, this battle's lost, not won.