JT Film Review

35 – Richard III (1995)


4.5/5 stars

Director – Richard Loncraine

Cast – Sir Ian McKellan, Annette Benning, Jim Broadbent, Robert Downey Jr., Nigel Hawthorne, Kristen Scott Thomas, Maggie West, Dominic West, Edward Hardwicke


Richard III 2Shakespeare is old, one of the oldest playwrights to still be performed fairly regularly. His work has been done over and over again, and been done in many different ways. How then to keep it interesting? The only option really is to keep trying new things. And this movie does that with relish.

Transplanting Shakespeare to the 30’s isn’t done too often, and it works here wonderfully. The period works wonderfully towards the theme of the play. After all, the 30’s were one of the most flamboyant and manipulative decades ever, and Richard III is all about intrigue and back stabbing in style. The jazz music played as the soundtrack adds perfectly to the mood, and Ian McKellen is well… Ian McKellen. He plays the role of Richard absolutely brilliantly. In fact, when compared to the other most famous Richard III, Laurence Olivier, even the great Sir Larry (im my opinion) can’t hold a candle to Sir Ian.

While I’m on the point of the cast, I should mention the supporting cast, most of whom are very good. Maggie Smith appears as Richard’s mother. She hates her son, and makes no attempt to hide it. Maggie was a perfect choice to play such a venomous woman. Many other British actors appear, such as John Hardwicke (the second Dr. Watson opposite Jeremy Brett in BBC’s “Sherlock Holmes” series), and Nigel Hawthorne (most famous for his role as Sir Humphrey Appleby in “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister“). Both of these actors “bring their A-game”, and are wonderful to watch.

robertdowneyjrrichardiiiThe only actors who were not so good were, surprisingly, Robert Downey Jr. and Annette Benning. Both tended to go a bit overboard dramatically when they spoke, although Robert Downey’s body language is superb. One sequence in particular, where we are introduced to him, is particularly good. He is a tad drunk, and knows very little of royal conventions. It’s a pity he didn’t reign in his vocal performance as well.

One final word about the last scene. The final two or three shots are almost masterpieces, but the buildup to them is not so great. It’s as if the whole finale is a bit rushed. This is unfortunate, but does not in the end ruin the movie.


If you love Shakespeare and don’t mind a movie that plays a bit loose with the original script, you will love this. Even if you don’t like the Bard I would suggest you give this a try. It is a fun, dark, and energetically atmospheric movie. Highly recommended.



“Richard III” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



August 12, 2009 - Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - War, Year - 1990-1999 | , , , ,

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