Tag Archives: Guy Ritchie

He Is Wrath

Wrath of Man

by Hope Madden

I’m not saying Jason Statham is unconvincing with a gun. Nor am I saying that Guy Ritchie is ill-suited to direct a humorless vengeance drama.

I’m just saying that these are not their strong suits.

Wrath of Man shadows a very dour Statham—just call him H, like the bomb—as he begins training for his new gig with a cash truck crew.

Something’s up, obviously, and the only fun to be had in the film is trying to figure out what it is, so do not watch the trailer.

At The Depot, where all the trucks come and go and all the crew mock and belittle one another, we meet the assortment of characters you will not come to know or care about: Boy Sweat Dave (Josh Hartnett – where have you been?), Dana (Niamh Algar), Bullet (Holt McCallany). All of them choking on ludicrously overwritten banter, none of them drawing even a single compelling character.

Which is fine because there are at least 16 more people you won’t get to know, won’t care if they’re killed, won’t be invested in their conflicts.

Ritchie is usually much better than this at scattershot introductions of oddball lowlife clusters, each pod with its own story, each story intersection every other story at one turn or another. Maybe he’s just too out of his element setting the action in LA rather than his beloved London, but the lived-in feel of a reprobate world that’s usually a high point to a Ritchie flick is sorely missing here.

And what is the deal with these accents? By now, we know better than to expect Statham to attempt a yank accent, but what exactly is Eddie Marsan’s nationality supposed to be? Or Andy Garcia’s, for that matter?

Hell if I know. I do know that casting Statham generally guarantees some nifty fisticuffs.

Not today!

He shoots a bunch of people, sure, but there’s no panache to anything. It’s a heist movie without the meticulous execution, a vengeance thriller with no emotional connection to the villain, a Statham movie with no ass kicking, and a Ritchie movie with no humor, no flash, no style.

No thank you.   

Rumble in the Jungle

The Gentlemen

by George Wolf

If nothing else, Guy Ritchie and his Gentlemen are not lacking in self-confidence. This is a film, and a filmmaker, anxious to prove the old guys can still cut it, and that any young upstart who thinks otherwise has a painful lesson coming.

Ritchie returns to the testosterone-laden, subtitle-needin’ bloody British gangster comedy terrain of Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – the early films that still define him – for a stylish ride through a violent jungle with a man who’s not sure he still wants to be King.

Matthew McConaughey is Mickey Pearson, an American Rhodes Scholar who put his brains to work in the drug trade, utilizing a string of expansive British estates to build an underground network that controls the supply of “bush” aka “supercheese” aka weed.

But now it seems he’s ready for a quiet life of leisure with wife Roz (Michelle Dockery), and offers to sell his entire operation to brilliant criminal nerd Matthew (Jeremy Strong) for a sizable sum.

As Matthew is mulling, Roz smells “fuckery afoot,” and she smells wisely.

There’s plenty, and a PI named Fletcher (Hugh Grant) thinks he has it all figured out, so much so that he visits Ray (Charlie Hunnam), Mickey’s number two, with an offer to save Mickey’s hide…in exchange for a hefty fee.

Ya follow? There’s plenty more, and it’s all spelled out via the screenplay Fletcher has conveniently written. As Fletcher joyously outlines the plot to Ray (and us) over scotches and steaks, Ritchie uses the device to play with possible threads, backtrack, and start again.

The Gentlemen is not just meta. As the double crosses and corpses mount, it becomes shamelessly meta, a sometimes engaging, other times tiresome romp buoyed by slick visual style and committed performances (especially Grant and Hunnam), but marred by self-satisfaction and stale humor that might have been less tone deaf a decade ago.

You get the feeling that after a marriage to Madonna and some big Hollywood franchise films (Sherlock Homes, Aladdin), Ritchie is out to prove he hasn’t gone soft with a little raucous, chest-beating fun.

But while The Gentlemen does show Ritchie’s way with a camera can still be impressive, its best parts only add up to a fraction of their promise.

Carpet Ride Seeks Magic

Aladdin

by George Wolf

Stepping in for Robin Williams as the Genie in Aladdin was always going to be a thankless task, but while everyone was busy debating the casting of Will Smith, the director’s chair went largely unnoticed.

Could Guy Ritchie, who’s evolved from rough and tumble British crime capers (Snatch) to both big budget hits (Sherlock Holmes) and disasters (King Arthur), capture the magic of Disney’s best live action remakes?

Well, how many wishes does he have left?

The tale of “street rat” Aladdin (Mena Massoud) using the Genie (Smith) to get him next to Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) ends up feeling too stiff and self-conscious to ever let some real wonder out of the bottle.

The story arc has been altered slightly, leading to an earlier meeting between Aladdin and the Princess, and a relationship where the stakes don’t feel as high or the changes of heart as well-earned.

Reaction shots and choppy dialog (from Ritchie and co-writer John August) carrying an overly staged, exaggerated odor, while the Genie is plagued less by casting than by the less-than-cutting edge CGI.

Re-imagining the Genie character would have been a risky (but ambitious) move, and though Smith won’t make anyone forget Williams, he is hardly the big problem here. His charm is abundant and a valuable asset for the film, especially when the Genie takes human form.

His singing voice, though, is not strong. And strangely, neither is
Massoud’s, compounding the weaknesses in Ritchie’s bland vision for the musical numbers.

The Alan Menken/Howard Ashman tunes are still stellar, but the repeated addition of a new girl power anthem for Jasmine (“Speechless) ranks as forgettable bait for an Original Song Oscar nod.

And while I’m ranting, maybe we could have an extra thirty second buffer to decompress before the ubiquitous cry of “DJ Khaled!” signals an oncoming pop mix for the closing credits?

Even the best directors have struggled with musicals (Attenborough’s misguided A Chorus Line and Eastwood’s limp Jersey Boys jump to mind), and though Aladdin didn’t originate on the stage, the music sequences demand a pizzazz that Ritchie is helpless to present.

He seems much more comfortable with film’s darker edges, and an intensely slimy turn from Marwan Kenzari as Jafar helps the villain’s quest for absolute power find some needed gravitas.

Look, the film still offers some perfectly fine moments of overly manufactured family entertainment that will make many parents nostalgic for the original. But after the live-action heights hit by The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, this Aladdin is a carpet ride missing much of its magic.

Lock, Stock and One Smoking Sword

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

by Hope Madden

Right, Guy Ritchie’s medieval-ish sorcery fable King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is bad.

But how bad is it?

Or more to the point, how Guy Ritchie is it?

The filmmaker mixes his trademark hypothetical-scenarios, quick-cut montages and period anachronisms with video game quality CGI, and it’s hard to decide which approach is more ill-suited to the material.

Or is the bigger issue the fact that this story – among the oldest, simplest, most re-told in the history of the English language – is befuddled beyond recognition once Ritchie and his team of co-writers have their way with it?

The film opens appealingly enough: King Uther (Eric Bana) hands his crown to his brother Vortigern (Jude Law) to hold while he single-swordedly defeats the villainous wizard Mordred – who controls super colossal elephant beasts with his mind!

This makes Jude Law’s nose bleed, so we know something’s up. Next thing you know, there are hungry sea-serpent siren things, Uther’s attacked, and little bitty Arthur finds himself floating Moses-like toward Londinium and the waiting arms of some golden-hearted prostitutes.

Flash forward through the first of several watch-him-become-a-man montages and Charlie Hunnam appears. Street savvy, tough, flippant and boasting what can only be the work of the most stylish barber in all of Londinium, he runs afoul of the king and accidentally pulls Excalibur from its stone. He’d just as soon put it back.

He’s reluctant! He doesn’t want all this! He’s just a regular guy – who looks like super-cut Charlie Hunnam and says things like “ya big, silly, posh bastard.”

And if you think he seems out of place in about-to-be-Arthurian England, check out Jude Law and his leather blazer and matching skinny jeans.

But what did you expect – that he wouldn’t Guy Ritchie this thing? It’s Game of Thrones meets Sherlock Holmes (the Ritchie version). And that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

The Arthurian legend can be a stiff slog, and a little shot of style could enliven things. Unfortunately, Ritchie buries every stylistic choice he makes under charmless and pace-deadening CGI.

It would take more than magic to save this thing.

Verdict-2-0-Stars