Fear, Paranoia, & Anxiety in Men of Respect

Over this past winter intersession, I watched Men of Respect, written and directed by William Reilly in 1990. I should mention that this film is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s MacBeth. Here is a link to the trailer but I could not find a clip that I could put on the blog. Men of Respect Trailer

It is a drama about a man named Mike Battaglia who starts out as low-ranking hit-man and eventually rises in the ranks of the Irish/Italian mafia. I felt that this movie hit the three main topics of this class very accurately. I will discuss them below.

FEAR. The movie’s opening scene is set at a diner where a group of mafia men are sitting around a table in a booth talking to each other in serious tones. The lighting is dark and the diner is filled with clanging sounds of utensils scraping the dishes. Then the movie cuts to the parking lot outside the diner and shows Mike handling a deadly looking shotgun. He storms up the small set of stairs to the diner and, with no expression on his face, points the shotgun at the man in the center and shoots him in the head point blank. Mike goes on to target every other man who was sitting at the table as all hell breaks loose. There’s blood everywhere, splattering all over the walls and the white linen napkins. After the gunshots stop, the camera pans to the casualties all over the diner and Mike is the last one standing. He has a crazed look in his eyes and blood patterns across his white t-shirt. I felt that this scene played on humans’ most primal fear: death. I personally (as I’m sure many other people are) am afraid of death and refuse to think about it even though it is the inevitable. In this movie, the thought of death strikes a feeling of fear in the audience. 

PARANOIA. Now throughout the movie, Mike’s wife, Ruthie takes a “masculine” role in the relationship, pushing him and urging him to do whatever is necessary to become the mafia  king. She uses sex to convince him when he is doubting whether or not to kill Charlie (the don at the time). She says “You do everything. They do nothing.” Ruthie tells Mike that together, they can rise to the top and everyone can look up to them and report to them. However, after Mike kills Charlie, he goes insane with paranoia. He is constantly looking over his shoulder. He hallucinates and sees a good (but dead) friend that he had put a hit on and causes an embarrassing (to say the least) scene at a party where he shouts at the ghost. 

ANXIETY. Because there is this constant threat of someone retaliating against Mike for all the people he has killed to get to the top in such a short amount of time, the tensions in him and Ruthie build. The voices of all the dead people eat away at his sanity. The climax of the movie comes when the other mafia “associates” plot to take down Mike, whom they feel has completely destroyed their sense of order and hierarchy. The associates raid Mike’s building in a flurry of gunshots. Ruthie slits her wrists and dies slumped over the bathtub. Upon discovering her, Mike goes even more insane (if possible). However in the end, Mike dies at the hand of one of the associates. 

So ladies and gentlemen, I hope you have understood (and hopefully enjoyed my application of) the elements of fear, paranoia, and anxiety in the film, Men of Respect.  I bid you all good night.

2 thoughts on “Fear, Paranoia, & Anxiety in Men of Respect

  1. Thanks for reminding me of this fun movie, Jenny. It’s a really interesting, noirish take on Macbeth, one whose setting makes a lot of sense. Though I think it’s flawed in many ways, it still works really really well. Who doesn’t love a mafia movie? John Turturro, who often plays anxious and tortured characters, makes a memorable Macbeth. And the rest of the cast is pretty amazing: some real character actor heavy hitters like Rod Steiger, Dennis Farina, Stanley Tucci, and Peter Boyle.

    Men of Respect is a great non-Macbeth Macbeth. An adaptation of Shakespeare’s shortest and bloodiest play that changes the setting and context for the action but remains faithful to the plot of Shakespeare’s original. A great one is Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957) with Toshiro Mifune which transports the Macbeth story to feudal Japan. Here’s a link to the full-length film: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2562579153681604039#

  2. Pingback: Fear, Anxiety, and Paranoia » Barton Fink Totally Looks Like Eraserhead!

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