Guy Ritchie’s darkest film to date is a revenge plot without his usual ironic slick. A film as cold blooded as its gangster lead, H (Jason Statham). The lack of slick may have something to do with the source material, Nicolas Boukhrief’s film Le convoyeur (2004).
For me this might be Guy Ritchie’s most accomplished film. He takes his version of mock cockney to it’s apotheosis, with more of the usual geezas with guns. The world he creates only exists in Mr Richie’s imagination, but he does manage to make it intriguing and watchable. Playing on all kinds of stereotypes he unpicks our expectations. Although even with all of his inventiveness, I still can’t escape the idea that I’m watching is a posh boy deconstructing working class roughness.
The Gentlemen (2019)
This lacks the novelty and exuberance of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). Neither does it have the confidence of possibly his best film RocknRolla (2008). A film that seems to have more of a sense of itself than this one. Richie manages some mild originality from the scenario, but he’s ploughing the same asphalt as his earlier films. Even King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) is a gangster film wrapped in mythic cellophane. Hugh Grant stands out as the slimy private investigator telling the story. A device that manages to keep the pace and interest piqued. I like this device. It gives the storytelling a certain style and rhythm. Other than that, it really is business as usual for a bunch of smart mouthed mock gangsters doing their t’ing. As The Jam proclaims at the end of the film “That’s Entertainment”, Mr Richie style.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)
The film’s a bit of a mess. I get that Ritchie has tried to bring something of his smart arse mockney gangsterness to the legend of Arthur, but his gangster films only work because his characters are so exaggerated, and he’s only able to turn the dials up on everything because it’s still grounded in something real.
This just ends up feeling disjointed, like two trains running on separate tracks, hopping from one train to the other repeatedly but servicing neither.
This kind of genre blending can work. Rian Johnson does film noir in a high school Brick (2005), and Jean-Jacques Annaud’s does a detective story in a medieval monastery in Name of the Rose (1986).
There’s a way to do the Arthurian legend as a gangster film, something that’s better than just grafting on a few scenes of mockney talking, onto a poor version of Lord of the Rings (2001-2003).