Ralph Fiennes was born to do Shakespeare — the man has appeared in adaptations of plays like Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and, of course, Hamlet. And even after becoming a Hollywood big shot, Fiennes never forgot his Shakespearean roots. Not only does he continually return to the theater, but in 2011, he brought the Bard to the big screen, giving audiences an R-rated take on Coriolanus, a political thriller with a 93 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Directed by Fiennes himself, Coriolanus finds the actor playing the titular general, a proud military man who spends his days defending Rome. Eventually, Coriolanus is given the prestigious position of consul, but thanks to some savvy political enemies, the masses turn on the scarred-up soldier and banish him. Wanting revenge against the city he once bled for, Coriolanus teams up with his arch-enemy, a rival general named Aufidius (Gerard Butler), and returns to Rome with hate in his heart and assault rifle in hand.
That's right. We said "assault rifle."
While Shakespeare's dialogue remains the same, the setting has been moved to 20th-century Europe, and the whole thing has a Bosnian War vibe. It's Shakespeare with machine guns, and while we often think of his plays as classy and refined, many of the Bard's productions were quite bloody. Fiennes keeps that tradition alive with bullet holes and knife wounds galore, and when he runs into frame with an M-16, it's shocking to think this battle-hardened badass is the same guy from The Grand Budapest Hotel. And with the support of world-class actors like Jessica Chastain and Vanessa Redgrave, plus clever uses of news channels and talk shows to share Shakespeare's prose, Coriolanus is a smart and savage adaptation of one of Shakespeare's most exciting plays.