When gallant Don Pedro (Denzel Washington), his nefarious brother Don John (Keanu Reeves), and close confidantes Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) and Benedick (Kenneth Branagh) ride thunderously into the Sicilian village of Messina, romance, gaiety, and suspicion abound. The men have returned safely from a war, and soon everyone in the sun-drenched villa is abuzz with thoughts of love. Claudio, enamored of the purity of the nubile Hero (Kate Beckinsale), entreats Don Pedro to woo the maiden on his behalf that evening at a masked ball. Once he's managed the successful betrothal of Hero to Claudio, Don Pedro has another plot in mind: he plans to trick Hero's bantering cousin Beatrice (Emma Thompson) and sworn bachelor Benedick into acknowledging they've fallen in love. Meanwhile, the villainous Don John, driven by contempt for his compatriots, has hatched a plot of his own: to fool Claudio and Don Pedro into believing Hero is unchaste. The plot works perfectly: sensitive but volatile Claudio denounces her publicly on their wedding day. All seems lost, and soon the attempts to set things right include a formal duel, a scheming friar, a mock memorial and a gaggle of bumbling constables. With its excellent cast and beautiful Tuscan backdrop, director Kenneth Branagh's film is a light-hearted adaptation of yet another of Shakespeare's great plays.
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