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An update of Shakespeare's 'Othello' with a young cast, set in an upper class prep school, & centered around basketball player Odin.


Tim Blake Nelson


William Shakespeare (play), Brad Kaaya (screenplay)
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mekhi Phifer ... Odin James
Martin Sheen ... Coach Duke Goulding
Josh Hartnett ... Hugo Goulding
Andrew Keegan ... Michael
Julia Stiles ... Desi Brable
Rain Phoenix ... Emily
Chris Freihofer ... Assistant Coach
Elden Henson ... Roger
John Heard ... Dean Brable
Anthony Johnson ... Dell (as Anthony 'A. J.' Johnson)
Chris Dong Chris Dong ... Dutchman Player
Rachel Shumate ... Brandy
Marshall Gitter Marshall Gitter ... Radio Announcer
Lisa Benavides-Nelson Lisa Benavides-Nelson ... Ms. Serney (as Lisa Benavides)
Ken French Ken French ... Scout #1


Tough Coach Duke Goulding leaves nothing untried to lead his almost exclusively white boarding school basketball team, the Hawks, to victory after victory, but his own son Hugo feels his polyvalent technical excellence and tireless efforts -which require using stimulants- are not getting anything like the recognition he deserves, especially when coach gives the best player award to Odin James, the only black teammate, even saying he loves Odin like his own son, who in turn only calls super-rich Michael Cassio to share in the honor. So Hugo, who is liked by everyone, decides to set up the boys who stole his glory, and he knows a cocky adolescent's weak points are his pride and his girl. This Dixie Jago schemes to bring down a black Othello and his Cassio, playing into the poisonous power of jealousy, however badly this also hurts their loved ones and the whole team... Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Nothing comes between two people's love, like one person's jealously. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence, a scene of strong sexuality, language and drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Official site





Release Date:

31 August 2001 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Othello See more »

Filming Locations:

Charleston, South Carolina, USA


Box Office


$5,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$6,916,625, 2 September 2001, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$16,017,403, 4 November 2001
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Some post production sound was provided by students at Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo. They added their sound to the basketball crowds, party fight scene, and the shooting scene in the girls' dorm. See more »


In the end when Emily is confronting Hugo about telling O that Desi was cheating on him, she is pointing in O's direction with her left hand. In the next shot, she has changed hands and is pointing at Hugo. See more »


[first lines]
Hugo: All my life I always wanted to fly. I always wanted to live like a hawk. I know you're not supposed to be jealous of anything, but... to take flight, to soar above everything and everyone, now that's living.
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Version of Othello (1914) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Trust. Seduction. Betrayal. Everything comes full circle. Oh what a bad film this is!
8 October 2003 | by Old JoeSee all my reviews

This is not a good film, although heaven only knows it wanted to be. There are so many aspects that are just not up to scratch here, the acting, the characters, the script (especially the plot) and direction, which is as bad as I have seen in a movie in a longtime. O is based on Shakespeare's play called ‘Othello', but after seeing this film and not liking it, I would rather read Shakespeare or see this story on Broadway, because at least then I would know I might be seeing something better than this garbage.

In the elite private school of Palmetto Grove, Odin ‘O' James is the only black student. He is a NBA hopeful, possessing the talent to go straight from high school to the pros. O is also dating the prettiest girl in the school, Desi Brable. They are the envy of all their friends – having found a love that is deep, honest and pure. O's best friend, Hugo, is on the same basketball team and the son of Coach Duke Goulding. Hugo has been asked by his father to look out for O but, in reality, Hugo is seeking to destroy the very person he pretends to befriend. As his jealousy of O increases, so does Hugo's determination to bring him down. He has a plan, a dark scheme to destroy O and using every conceivable, wicked ploy, he may just do it.

The makers of this film cannot avoid getting a spray from me in this review. Director Tim Blake Nelson, did what I would say was an ordinary job in directing ‘O'. Some of his choices as camera shots are not at all clever or convincing, and the movie has a very ‘stop/start' flow that makes it difficult to watch. Nelson needed to look at how Roger Kumble delicately put together Cruel Intentions, because that movie was cleverly directed.

However Blake is not the only one who will be getting a serve from me about this film. The screenplay for this film was written by Brad Kaaya and was not as good as it could have been. I like how movies try to use legendary stories from many generations ago, such as Shakespeare, but for some reason this screenplay was just not up to the mark. The plot to the film is just not good enough, as it does not make much sense at many stages, especially at the end. Another bad side to it was the characters developed for the story, such as O and Hugo, who are characters I did not like.

Which leads me to the acting in this film. O (Mekhi Phifer) is a guy at the start of the movie that we can see is a huge basketball talent and has a great girlfriend, Desi. Then halfway through the movie this guy turns nasty and from where I viewed it, for no apparent reason, other then listening to the evil plans of Hugo. I do not want to give the whole film away, but there is a scene with O that could have been ok if the film did not over do it. O is going through an NBA trial, which he shows to be a breeze, then after it, he decides to do something that was not very creative, destroying the scene for me.

Desi (Julia Stiles) is a very nice girl placed in a situation that is not very good. But for some reason even her character is hard to understand, as some of her lines are just down right silly and/or corny. From my sources, I heard Stiles did this movie, because of her love for Shakespeare, which is fine. But how blind can this girl be? I mean the script for this film was not up to the standard of some of her other work she has done (like 10 things I hate about you and Save the last dance), a great shame.

Then there is Hugo, played by my best mate (Josh Hartnett). His role once again is not very good. What do people see in this guy? The way he looks is not very convincing, as he continues to look like a little boy in over his head. I have seen him in a few roles where he is the good guy, and I have not liked him. Seeing him as a bad guy here, would you believe, I think is even worse. Another criticism of Hartnett from me is the way he speaks in both his acting and in voice-overs (that were disgraceful!) in this film. To me, Josh sounds like he is ‘whispering', just not good enough.

There are some very distressing scenes in this film, like I have never seen before. O and Desi have a very strange sex scene that I did not find the least bit arousing. You have the sequence at a basketball match where Roger (Elden Henson) is totally harassed and ridiculed, by Michael (Andrew Keegan) and a friend, which is very hard to watch. I know what that guy felt like. Then to top it all of, Hugo's crazy plan is one of the worst parts of a film that I have ever seen. It is unusual, awkward and gut wrenching, especially what we see O do to poor Desi, not pleasant at all.

I am the least bit sorry for being harsh towards this film, as it deserves every bit of criticism it gets. I was hesitant to watch the film and in a way I am glad I did, as I now know how bad it is. I recommend people stay away from ‘O', instead watch ‘Cruel Intentions' or ‘10 things I hate about you', which are much classier movies. Finally this movie has left me with a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth, when it comes to friends and relationships. I know I will be careful choosing both sorts of people in the future.

CMRS gives ‘O': 0

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