William Shakespeare plays reinvented as modern-language high school movies have become a mini-genre unto themselves in the last few years. But the very fact that "10 Things I Hate About You" ("The Taming of the Shrew") and "Get Over It" ("A Midsummer Night's Dream") were comedies gave them some leeway from literary scrutiny. They were, after all, just for fun.
That kind of forgiveness is hard to apply to the awkward alterations that arise in Tim Blake Nelson's "O" -- an update of the treacherous tragedy "Othello," featuring a private school basketball hero standing in for the Moorish general driven to murdering his wife by a malicious, coldly calculating officer in his command.
Mekhi Phifer ("Soul Food," "Clockers") stars as Odin James, an inner-city import to highfalutin Palmetto Grove Academy. Odin has run afoul of Hugo (Josh Hartnett in the Iago role), a hoops teammate silently enraged by the feeling that his utilitarian talents are going unrecognized in Odin's long shadow -- even by the coach, Hugo's own father (Martin Sheen).
Continue reading: O Review