"Men of Respect," a Cosa Nostran version of "Macbeth," begins with the usual shootout over a spaghetti dinner and proceeds pro forma through the regulation drips and splatters of the godfather genre. Mamma mia, it's such a mess -- they ought have called it "Out, Out, Damned Tomato Sauce."
William Reilly, a soap opera star, playwright and screenwriter, makes his directorial debut with this overwrought hommage to the Bard, a garishly overacted clinker more than a little faithful to the original. Those familiar with the Shakespearean version will find no surprises in this Macgodfather -- except, of course, that Lady Macbeth's modern-day counterpart removes stains with Ajax.
John Turturro of "Do the Right Thing" plays Mikey Battaglia, a simple soldier whose ambitious wife goads him into betraying his padrino (Rod Steiger), an act that drives the once-stable Battaglia quite mad-do-you-hear-me-mad. Ruthie Battaglia (Katherine Borowitz), a cool moll who plots her husband's power play, likewise disintegrates into a state befitting Crazy Eddie. "Who would have thought the old man had so much blood in him," observes Mrs. Battaglia, who wanders their restaurant's courtyard talking to herself and washing her hands in the birdbath. Two of Battaglia's puzzled lieutenants look on. "Is her husband aware of this condition?" asks one, unintentionally bringing the house down.
Turturro does attract attention to himself, but along with fellow scenery-biters Dennis Farina, Peter Boyle, Stanley Tucci and Steven Wright, he cannot overcome the ludicrous material. And to think, the actors waived their usual fees for the privilege of falling so painfully on their daggers. Zounds, but 'tis a deal we canst refuse.
Men of Respect, at area theaters, is rated R for violence.