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WOULD THAT HARRIS HAD TRADED HIS 'KINGDOM' FOR A BETTER ROLE.

Byline: Glenn Whipp Film Critic

WHEN Richard Harris died of Hodgkin's disease in October, more than a few admirers were upset that obituary writers emphasized his role as Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster in the first two ``Harry Potter'' movies, above all else. For those partisans, there is one more chance to see the charismatic Harris in a movie, this time shorn of the ZZ Top-issue facial hair and with an opportunity to do something more than baby-sit a bunch of fledgling wizards.

Harris stars in ``My Kingdom,'' a mediocre retelling of Shakespeare's ``King Lear'' that's distinguished only by the presence of the legendary actor. Delivering much of his dialogue with the same whispered cadences that distinguished his speech in the last ``Potter'' film, Harris is perfect as the shattered old man watching his life's work implode before his eyes.

As updated by British filmmaker Don Boyd, that life's work is of the wise-guy variety. Harris plays a world-weary crime boss in Liverpool who, following a tragedy, divides his empire between his two spoiled daughters. Jo (Emma Catherwood), the youngest and most favored, is recovering from a life of drugs and prostitution and wants nothing to do with dad's dirty deeds. She just wants his love.

The other girls want the cash. The oldest, Kate (Louise Lombard) runs a brothel that specializes in bondage; middle child Tracy (Lorraine Pilkington) owns a football team and dresses like a Spice Girl. Once dad hands over his holdings, they give him the old heave-ho. ``You never gave us love,'' Kate says, twisting the knife, ``now it's our turn to do the same to you.''

Watching Harris ham it up while physically and emotionally disintegrating over the course of the movie has a certain poignancy in light of his recent death, but Boyd's film offers little else of consequence. It's essentially a B-level British gangster movie with luridly inane subplots involving a paraplegic pimp and a scheme to smuggle drugs in cows. It makes you wish someone had put up a little cash so Harris could fulfill his lifelong dream and play Lear. As it is, this isn't much of a swan song.

MY KINGDOM - Two stars

(Not rated: strong violence, language, drug use and sexual situations)

Starring: Richard Harris.

Director: Don Boyd.

Running time :1 hr. 56 min.

Playing: Opening for a one-week Oscar qualifying run at Landmark's Cecchi Gori Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills.

In a nutshell: Richard Harris' swan song offers a certain poignancy, but little else.

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``My Kingdom,'' a retelling of Shakespeare's ``King Lear,'' stars Richard Harris in his final performance.
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Title Annotation:Review; U
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 6, 2002
Words:435
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