416 years after it was written Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” a story of morality and mercy in Vienna, has been relocated to a modern day housing commission apartment block in Melbourne, Australia. Paul Ireland’s “Measure for Measure,” now on VOD, condenses the Bard’s four-hour play into a time saving and timely 2 hours.
The action begins with a Meth-fueled shooting rampage breaking the relative calm of an apartment block’s communal garden. The place is a mini city within a city, a microcosm of society where its citizens are reliant on a leader in the form of crime boss Duke (Hugo Weaving), an aging godfather who controls most of the goings on in the neighborhood. The shooting has brought unwanted attention to Duke who hightails it out of town leaving his first lieutenant, drug dealer Angelo (Mark Leonard Winter) in charge until the heat dies down.
Angelo is loyal, almost like a son to Duke, but he wants to expand the empire and his influence. Plus, can’t stop thinking about his neighbour Jaiwarra (Meagan Hajjar), whose brother, a violent gun runner named Farouk (Fayssal Bazzi), does not approve of his sister’s relationship with aspiring musician Claudio (Harrison Gilbertson).
Director Ireland and screenwriter Damian Hill weave together Shakespearean themes of power, corruption, revenge and star-crossed lovers with modern day concerns of racial divisions, trauma and the drug epidemic but at its convoluted core “Measure for Measure” essays feelings of love and hate. The relationship between Duke and Angelo comes with complicated and deep seeded feelings of allegiance but is beginning to fray at the edges. Jaiwarra and Claudio have a deep bond that is threatened by Farouk’s hatred. Each character is intertwined and while the mix-and-match of love story and social commentary sometimes feels strained and melodramatic, Ireland offers up good performances—particularly from Weaving—that smooth over the film’s rough spots.