Drugs, love, and unbridled violence weave through co-writer and director Paul Ireland’s Shakespearean crime drama, Measure for Measure. Adapted from the Shakespeare play of the same name, the film discusses issues such as multiculturalism, gender, drugs, and religion in a way that is increasingly relevant in 2020 without ever feeling heavy-handed. As the film follows criminals and civilians alike, the underworld of Melbourne, Australia, is brought to life in this gritty narrative of love and sorrow.
Tragedy strikes early in the film as a lone gunman opens fire on citizens of a small apartment community within the heart of the city. With the eyes of the authorities on the apartment complex, local crime boss Duke (Hugo Weaving) is forced into hiding, leaving Angelo, his young heir to the crime throne, in charge of his turf.
While Duke and Angelo make arrangements to carry on their criminal enterprise, the film follows Claudio (Harrison Gilbertson) and Jaiwara (Megan Winter). Claudio saved Jaiwara from the shooter, beginning a tumultuous relationship. The two young lovers experience all Melbourne has to offer in the bliss of young and forbidden love, as it is prohibited by both Jaiwara’s family and her brother’s interpretation of the Qur’an. Young love seems to conquer all until Claudio learns his and Jaiwara’s relationship has garnered the disapproval of a local crime syndicate. More specifically, the crime syndicate run by Jaiwara’s brother Farouk (Fayssal Bazzi).
“…Claudio learns his and Jaiwara’s relationship has garnered the disapproval of a local crime syndicate.”
One of the biggest standouts of this film is Paul Ireland and Damian Hill’s ability to write subtly within their messages and characters. Measure for Measure hits on several major political issues without it ever feeling like they are inserting their own voice, but rather allowing the issues to unfold within a larger story. These issues are further brought to the forefront through the chemistry between Gilbertson and Winter, effortlessly playing a couple hopelessly in love, yet caught living in an untamable world of violence. The montage of Claudio and Jaiwara falling in love is among my favorite moments of the film, as it brings the audience into the ecstasy of their love and raises the stakes in every scene, reminding viewers that love can be perilous.
Measure for Measure is a collection of great performances by both seasoned and up-and-coming actors. Hugo Weaving plays a sympathetic-yet-ruthless crime boss with such nuance; it’s not so much what Weaving says or even does in the scene, but how he does it. Mark Leonard Winter gives an outstanding performance as Angelo, highlighting both the unrestrained violence of a brutal criminal and the tortured demeanor of a fallen angel. Even with great performances, there are moments that the pacing and tone of the film are a bit off and where the shifting story is a bit convoluted, especially in the first act.
Despite minor shortcomings, Measure for Measure is a solid crime drama for fans of the genre and greater subtext through analysis. I recommend this film for fans of the pacing in Steve McQueen’s Widows or crime films with a Shakespearean flair.
"…drugs, love, and unbridled violence weave...Shakespearean crime drama..."