“My Kingdom” is a testament to the acting talent of the late Richard Harris. That’s about all that can be said for this tragic update of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Set in modern-day Liverpool, “My Kingdom” derives its plot points – save the ending – from the Bard’s great tragedy, but it otherwise milks the Guy Ritchie formula with anemic results.
Harris plays Sandeman, a Liverpudlian crime lord who witnesses his wife Mandy (Lynn Redgrave) get killed during a mugging incident. The bereaved boss man then starts to make ill-advised decisions. He first attempts to turn his empire over to Jo (Emma Catherwood), his youngest daughter. Jo’s a former crack addict who wants nothing to do with dad’s business. Sandeman then decides to split the empire between Jo’s corrupt older siblings, Kath (Louise Lombard) and Tracy (Lorraine Pilkington). Kath runs a brothel with cold-hearted efficiency and Tracy is the slutty owner of a soccer club. A crooked vice cop (Aidan Gillen) gets in on the action, playing the sisters off one another while also attempting to screw over the old man.
After selling off dear old dad’s house and casting him on the street, the evil sisters scheme to get in the old boy’s latest drug smuggling operation (wherein the goods get shipped inside Danish cows). Sandeman, horrified by the greed and treachery of his family, sees the error of his ways and revisits Jo. He inevitably recovers and exacts his revenge, although his victory is bittersweet.
Harris projects both regality and authority in the early scenes, and slowly withers into a state of despondency as his empire slips from his grasp. Cinematographer Dewald Aukema masterfully captures Liverpool’s decaying urban landscape, visually augmenting Harris’s descent from his perch into near-madness.
Harris’s performance and Aukema’s camera eye are the bright points of this otherwise forgettable film. Director/co-writer Don Boyd falls flat with this adaptation. Updating Lear as a criminal kingpin, Edmund as a shady cop, Cordelia as an ex-crackhead, and Regan and Goneril as a madam and sports magnate may have looked good on paper, but onscreen it is painfully contrived. The supporting cast fumbles with their respective roles, reducing their characters to limp gangster clichés. Even with Harris’s strong effort, the script gives him little to effectively probe Lear’s soul-stripping breakdown. The story inevitably crash-lands to a weak resolution – suffice it to say that Shakespeare’s sudden and violent ending doesn’t translate well into a British crime drama.