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Let the Devil Wear Black

Executive producers, Jonathan Penner, Stacy Title.

Executive producers, Jonathan Penner, Stacy Title.

Directed by Stacy Title. Screenplay, Title, Jonathan Penner. Camera (Deluxe color), James Whitaker; editor, Luis Colina; music supervisor, Barklie Griggs; production designer, Alec Hammond. Reviewed at Slamdance Film Festival, Jan. 28, 1999. (Also in Cannes Film Festival — market.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With: Jonathan Penner, Jacqueline Bisset, Mary-Louise Parker, Jamey Sheridan, Philip Baker Hall, Jonathan Banks, Maury Chaykin, Chris Sarandon.

Afirst-rate ensemble cast and genuinely clever reworkings of Shakespearean plot devices are the major selling points for “Let the Devil Wear Black,” a noirish “Hamlet” modernization by indie helmer Stacy Title (“The Last Supper”). Pic likely will be overshadowed by a competing “Hamlet” update, the upcoming Michael Almereyda adaptation toplining Ethan Hawke. Still, Title’s slickly produced free-form version should provide a pleasant surprise for venturesome video renters and pay cable viewers.

Jonathan Penner, Title’s husband and collaborator, stars as Jack, a perennial grad student whose worst suspicions about his wealthy father’s death are entirely justified. His beautiful mother (Jacqueline Bisset) is ready to marry — with unseemly haste — his uncle (Jamey Sheridan). Jack places his life at risk as he investigates his father’s business dealings. Julia (Mary-Louise Parker), Jack’s on-again, off-again sweetheart, grows increasingly unstable as Jack becomes more obsessed with linking his uncle to a dark conspiracy. Jonathan Banks is a standout as the kind of guy who knows where all the bodies are buried (because he buried most of them himself). A couple of relatively explicit sex scenes may have to be tempered if producers want an R rating.

Let the Devil Wear Black

(THRILLER)

Production: A Trimark Pictures release of a New Moon Pictures production in association with Trimark. (International sales: Trimark Intl., L.A.) Produced by Matt Salinger.

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