Scotland, PA Movie Review

Fueled by gritty Bad Company songs, enough plaid to keep all residents of Alaska warm for winter, and Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap - Scotland, PA blasts onto the silver screen with the reckless intent of Patty Hearst during a bank robbery.

The last place I'd expect to see a Shakespearean adaptation of Macbeth to occur would be in a backwater town in the middle of Pennsylvania circa 1972. But it provides a dark and menacing backdrop to this loose - and do I mean loose - adaptation of Shakespeare's ever-popular tragedy of a incompetent husband and power-hungry wife weaving murderously toward power and riches.

The story revolves around the sordid tale of disillusioned fast-food workers vying for the power of the drive-thru window, set to butt-rocking seventies metal. Joe "Mac" McBeth (James LeGros) is the brains behind the thriving fast-food restaurant -- Duncan's -- along with his conniving and sultry wife Pat McBeth (Maura Tierney), who works the tables. His boss, Norm Duncan (James Rebhorn), is a schmuck of a boss who constantly overlooks the abilities of Mac and his brilliant ideas for expanding the business.

One night while walking home drunk, Mac encounters three hippies (Andy Dick, Timothy "Speed" Levitch, and Amy Smart) - the three witches of Fate - who foretell Mac's future and plant the seeds of revenge against his employer. Mac and Pat concoct a plan of thievery and murder, and after depositing the 'king' into the French fryer, Mac and Pat reign supreme in greasy food distribution until chief inspector McDuff (Christopher Walken) comes a-calling to find the murderers of the slain king.

As tensions mounts and the body count slowly rises, the slain king's son comes screaming out of his homosexual closet, and Mac and Pat slowing descend into 1970s decadence (complete with a wood-paneled basement and red muscle cars) as well as the madness of their own treacheries.

Director Billy Morrissette has produced the first concise parody of the classic Macbeth. It's unbelievable that Morrissette's previous forays into film production include stints as a bit part actor in Ghoulies 3: Ghoulies Go To College and as Paramedic #1 in the awful Vegas Vacation. By stripping away all of the fancy dialogue and introspective diatribes of the original text, Morrissette has produced a quirky noir film crammed full of wonderful characters made memorable by excellent acting. Strong performances by indie favorites James LeGros and Kevin Corrigan bring merit to the roles of Mac and Banko and the sultry Maura Tierney as Pat McBeth could cause even me to gun down my boss for her love. [You're fired. -Ed.]

By turning all actors of the play into white-trash hicks, small-town folks with simpleton minds, and thick guys with thick suntans - the original story virtually slips away. Everything about the production - from the set designs to the revolting fashion and hair designs - perfectly fits the scene. Between Mac throwing back Jack and Tabs at the local bar to Pat's endless smoking of extra slim cigarettes, the 1970s haven't been this vivid since Linklater's Dazed and Confused.

The glue that holds all these elements together resounds in the standout performances by Christopher Walken as McDuff - a vegan cop who drives a small German automobile listening to inspirational tapes - who manages to rival Frances McDormand's character from Fargo as most memorable cop. Whenever Walken enters the scene, he no longer resembles a supporting actor but a force of nature commanding response from all parties involved. His intrepid snooping brings out the biggest laughs I've ever had in any Shakespearean tragedy.

Despite the loads of laughs and great acting, the film serves more as a Pyrrhic victory for Morrissete. By stripping away all of the meat of the original story and turning it into a linear tale of revenge and murder, the story loses its muscle. The ending is sadly no better than your average direct-to-Showtime action flick.

The Scotland DVD includes a commentary track and a couple of minor extras.

The waitress doth protest too much.

Cast & Crew


Comments

Scotland, PA Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: R, 2001

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