Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Shakespeare tended to bump off half the cast in the final act of his tragedies. That's a bit difficult to do when adapting to the 21st century. How do you explain serial killing at high school, unless it's Scream 4?

O is for Othello, or Odin (Mekhi Phifer). D is for Desdemona, or Desi (Julia Stiles). I is for Iago, or Hugo (Josh Hartnett). They speak teen talk, not Bard-U-Like, and no one would guess this was The Moor's Tale until the plot implodes and people lie dead everywhere.

Copy picture

Odin is the star player on the basketball team. He's going out with the headmaster's daughter, which is not exactly a dream ticket, since he comes from the wrong side of the tracks and is black. In every other way, he's a super guy.

When Hugo starts spreading rumours against Odin and generally acting like the friend from hell, you don't know what he's up to. His dad (Martin Sheen) is the coach, which insures his place on the team, and he doesn't fancy Desi, so what's going on?

Odin is a far more stable character than Othello ever was. When he starts going goofy with jealousy, it doesn't seem right. Desi loves him. He knows it. Why get antsy when his rival as player-of-the-year sits next to her at a game?

The film is appallingly directed, exposing the actors to scenes of baffling embarrassment. Hartnett is especially vulnerable. He stumbles through with zero conviction, leaving Stiles to act her heart out and Phifer to cling to his dignity, like a shipwrecked chef in a sea of tapioca.

It would be unfair to say that O exposes the weakness of Othello. A high school basketball court is hardly a battlefield and the dark countenance of the moor would have made a more striking impression on the Roman legions than an African American in Jordan trainers on a student team.

Reviewed on: 12 Sep 2002
Share this with others on...
O packshot
Othello gets a high-school makeover.
Amazon link

Director: Tim Blake Nelson

Writer: Brad Kaaya, based on Othello by William Shakespeare

Starring: Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett, Julia Stiles, Andrew Keegan, Rain Phoenix, Elden Henson, Martin Sheen

Year: 2001

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Search database: