Q&A with Michael Almereyda and actors Penn Badgley, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Peter Gerety
In his brooding, noirish update of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, Michael Almereyda tackles one of the Bard’s late plays, a story of star-crossed lovers, ruthless court intrigue, and long-lost sons, reimagined against the backdrop of a turf war between a drug-dealing biker gang and corrupt cops in an unnamed post-industrial city. When Cymbeline (Ed Harris), King of the Briton Motorcycle Club, discovers that Posthumus (Penn Badgley) has secretly married his only heir, Imogen (Dakota Johnson), he banishes his penniless former protégé. In need of money, the exiled Posthumus accepts a challenge from Iachimo (Ethan Hawke), who bets “ten thousand to your ring” that he can seduce Imogen and prove she’s not as pure as he thinks. Meanwhile Cymbeline’s Queen (Milla Jovovich) has her own secret agenda, aiming to win the king’s crown for her son from an earlier marriage, Cloten (Anton Yelchin) by marrying him to Imogen, while encouraging her husband to end his payoffs to the Roman Police Force, thereby breaking his truce with police chief Caius Lucius (Vondie Curtis-Hall). The Hollywood Reporter called Anarchy a “mash-up of Sons of Anarchy with Game of Thrones,” but if this is one of Shakespeare’s more far-fetched plots, his language and terrific performances all round (add John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman, Delroy Lindo, and Kevin Corrigan to the cast list) make it sing, while Almereyda’s immensely inventive and skillful handling are a pleasure to behold. (Bonus points for Milla Jovovich’s rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Dark Eyes” and Tim Orr’s atmospheric cinematography.) A Lionsgate release.