Anarchy Ride or Die (2015)
“Kings Queens Soldiers Bikers War”
Anarchy Ride or Die (2015)
Director: Michael Almereyda
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Ed Harris, Milla Jovovich
Synopsis: A gritty story of a take-no-prisoners war between dirty cops and an outlaw biker gang. A drug kingpin is driven to desperate measures.
It’s a sad reflection on today’s society that a screen adaptation of a William Shakespeare play feels it necessary to sell itself as a cross between a TV drama about motorbike gangs and a bloodthirsty fantasy epic. Cymbeline, the play on which Anarchy Ride or Die is based (and which is the movie’s original US release title) was one of the bard’s bloodiest, which explains the decision of writer and director Michael Almereyda to situate the story largely amongst the closed ranks of a motorbike gang, as gang culture of some description is the only viable modern setting in which violence seems credible.
Balding sexagenarian Ed Harris (Frontera, Run All Night), looking uncomfortable in a biker jacket and shades, plays the title character, the mansion-dwelling ‘king’ of a biker gang embroiled in a war with a corrupt police force. His new wife, an underused Milla Jovovich (Joan of Arc), feigns loyalty while plotting the murder of Cymbeline’s daughter, Imogen (Dakota Johnson – 21 Jump Street) after her secret marriage to lowly Posthumus (Penn Badgley – The Stepfather) instead of to the Queen’s loutish son, Cloten (Anton Yelchin – Odd Thomas). When Posthumus is banished after Cymbeline discovers the marriage, he rashly enters into wager with the deviish Iachimo (Ethan Hawke – Assault on Precinct 13, The Purge) that the second man can’t bed Imogen in one meeting. To be honest, it’s the kind of bet that only a douche would make, but there you have it – love is blind, and all that…
Shakespeare’s plays aren’t exactly noted for their realism, and Almereyda trades on this to justify his decision to retain the play’s original prose while placing it in a modern setting. The world in which Cymbeline takes place is one that’s strangely detached from reality, not only because of the implausible plot and ancient language, but in the way that it’s populated only by those with a part to play. The use of what now sounds like stylised dialogue will undoubtedly deter the majority of younger viewers, which perhaps explains why the trailer focuses on the film’s more violent moments, but its rhythm and cadence sounds more natural as the story unfolds. And even if the peculiarities of Shakespeare’s dialogue seems impenetrable to the average audience, the plot is relatively easy to follow. In fact, there are a lot of similarities between the plot of Cymbeline and that of its more famous cousin, Romeo and Juliet, including star-crossed lovers who at one point mistakenly believe their lover to be dead.
The use of modern dress might seem pretentious to some, but it does help to make the film more accessible to a modern audience. Almereyda tries hard to enliven the film with stylistic flourishes that don’t always work, but he at least deserves credit for daring to be a little different in this age of homogenised pap and rigorous formula. Anarchy Ride or Die does, however, fail to explain how a couple of white kids could believe a black man to be their father…
(Reviewed 2nd October 2015)