Guy Ritchie’s latest film, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, is out in UK now.
The latest adaptation of the Arthurian legend sees Charlie Hunnam’s Arthur confront both the dark forces that are plaguing Britain as well as his own destiny.
In a way, the lead-up and response to Legend of the Sword is partially representative of how people react to Guy Ritchie’s films as a whole, as audiences never know if they’re going to get something really really good, or really fucking bad.
With that in mind, we take a look at, and rank, all the film’s Guy Ritchie has directed leading up to King Arthur:
Swept Away (2002)
During the first 20 minutes of Swept Away you may wonder why it has such a bad reputation. Sure, it’s not the greatest film, but it certainly isn’t as terrible as people claim.
And then you get to the part where Madonna and Adriano Giannini’s characters are ‘swept away’. After that, things get increasingly bizarre, especially when you consider this is meant to be a love story.
The fact that the character’s relationship is built on abuse (both verbal and physical), misogyny, subjugation and a near rape attempt makes you wonder how these characters could possibly fall in love. I can only imagine that Ritchie also wondered the same thing, as after that scene, the characters are suddenly just ‘in love’, in what is perhaps one of the most confusing and discomforting starts to relationship to be seen in cinema.
“Run, my little vixen… run, run!” – Guiseppe (Adriano Giannini)
Revolver seemed to be Ritchie’s return to directing his classic street-hustler style, after a five-year break producing Mean Machine and making rom-com Swept Away.
Unfortunately for fans of Lock, Stock and Snatch, Revolver turned out to be less a return to Ritchie’s classic style, and more an experiment in something new. And the thing about experiments is you don’t always know how they’re going to turn out. This experiment did not work.
What starts as a classic Ritchie underdog story turns into a film that tries too hard to be complex, intellectual and push a deeper meaning. The problem is one of the twists you can guess way before it’s revealed and the other…? Well… the other just doesn’t make much sense. While the film boasts some impressive visuals, the final third is weighed down by its own self-importance.
Also, let’s be honest, who goes to Jason Statham movies for intellectualism?
“Now I’ve got to spend the next two minutes, shaking… and sweating… like a crack whore clucking for a fix… Should have taken the stairs… cause it’s getting very… very tight in here” – Jake Green (Jason Statham)
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
Don’t be mistaken by the fact that I’ve placed this fairly low on the list: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is nowhere near as bad as the first two entries.
It does, however, have its own share of problems.
In short, A Game of Shadows falls into the same pit that BBC’s Sherlock has in recent series. Namely, it’s gotten too big. Not in popularity, but in the scale of its story. Sherlock Holmes is most appealing when he’s doing detective work. He is, after all, the world’s greatest detective (ignoring Batman). So taking him out of an investigation, and putting him in a globe-trotting adventure, just doesn’t work as well.
To the film’s credit, it does bring some chuckles and a fun adventurous romp. Plus, it has perhaps the most emotionally poignant ending of all Ritchie’s films.
“Why would I want anything with a mind of its own bobbing about between my legs?” – Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.)
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
The film that started it all.
Once again, the fact that this film isn’t higher on this list doesn’t mean it isn’t a good film. Although I grant you some people may disagree with this placement.
Lock, Stock is a great movie. It’s a lot of fun and one of the main showcases for a Ritchie movie done right. However, being his first film, there are times when it still seems as if he’s testing things out. It’s a demonstration of what’s to come. A base to build upon.
With some cracking dialogue and extremely funny situations, Lock, Stock both introduced Ritchie to cinema audiences and cemented his fan-base with one swift swoop.
Like many Ritchie films, unfortunately, at times it can seem overlong. And while it presented Ritchie as a distinct directorial voice – one that showed promise and talent – it still showed room for improvement, something that’s even more apparent when contrasted with his next film, Snatch.
“It’s been emotional” – Big Chris (Vinnie Jones)
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
You may question why The Man from U.N.C.L.E. beats out Lock, Stock, especially as the film isn’t nearly as talked about. But U.N.C.L.E. comes from a Ritchie with several more years of experience, and that shows.
Like Sherlock Holmes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. sees Ritchie take on an existing property and inject his style and wit into it to great success.
Although at times, the film feels like it could do with a trim, and some moments don’t quite land with the intensity or humour that they’re meant to, the film remains stylish, funny and extremely suave. It jumps straight into the action, and doesn’t let up until the credits roll.
Like all of Ritchie’s best films, it also sounds fantastic. The sound- editing really boosts the films quality. This, along with the writing and glamorous cast make The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and underrated gem.
The unfortunate thing is that pretty much the entire movie was shown in one of the trailers:
“I’ll let you tag along. But it’s in and out, no mess and we both forget about it in the morning” – Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill)
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Whereas A Game of Shadows misses the mark somewhat, almost everything about Ritchie’s first stab at Sherlock Holmes is spot on.
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law have great chemistry as the titular detective and his trusty sidekick, Doctor Watson. Along with Ritchie’s witty dialogue and hilarious situational comedy writing, every part about this movie shines.
While there is a point where it lulls slightly as the characters regroup leading up to the third act, it’s forgivable considering how great the rest of the film is. Furthermore, the plot brings the perfect amount of scope – a mystical terror filled with mystery and intrigue, that, at its core, is still the sort of standard detective tale that people are dying to watch Sherlock Holmes solve. Yes, it may be more bombastic and action-packed than other adaptations of Holmes, but it manages to balance that with the heart of the character and the stories he belongs to.
Plus, Ritchie’s street-smart style just so happens to lend itself perfectly to 1800s London.
“Holmes! Does your depravity know no bounds?” – Dr. John Watson (Jude Law)
Surprise twist! Despite being the film that is pretty much synonymous with Guy Ritchie, Snatch lands at number two.
The reason Snatch is usually the first film people think of when someone brings up Guy Ritchie is because it’s the film where he came into his own, despite the two lesser received films that followed.
Snatch builds upon what Ritchie established with Lock, Stock, taking the same style and same sort of humour and letting it evolve into a more fully realised film. Alongside the stronger writing and sense of storytelling came even more star-power, as Alan Ford steps up from being the narrator of Lock, Stock to give a despicable turn as the “‘orrible cunt” Brick Top. Meanwhile, on the side of the ‘angels’, you’ve got returning star Jason Statham pairing with Hollywood golden-boy Brad Pitt, to bring the film even more laughs and conflicting parties than its predecessor.
And as anyone who studies or loves film will know, you can’t make a good movie without some form of conflict.
“Listen, you fucking fringe, if I throw a dog a bone, I don’t want to know if it tastes good or not. You stop me again whilst I’m walking, and I’ll cut your fucking Jacobs off.” – Brick Top (Alan Ford)
Now, while you could argue that Snatch is Guy Ritchie’s best film, and many people would, I would argue that RocknRolla actually deserves the top spot.
While Snatch brings a lot more laugh-out-loud humour, RocknRolla presents a tighter, more streamlined narrative. Like Snatch built upon the groundwork that Lock, Stock had laid, similarly, RocknRolla takes it a step further. It’s the culmination (so far) of Ritchie’s stylised work. It has the wit, the loveable (and despicable) characters and branching plot-lines like all his best films. But, out of his original stories, it does the best job of tying everything back together and rounding everything off nicely.
It also has a great cast, featuring appearances from Idris Elba, Tom Hardy and Gerard Butler (before he started doing shit like Gods of Egypt) among others, and once again, the sound-track and sound-editing are done to perfection.
Just tell me that at the end, when the credits rolled and The Real RocknRolla was teased, that you weren’t dying to see it (although if you do tell me that, I’ll tell you you’re a liar).
“There’s no school like old school, and I’m the fucking headmaster” – Lenny Cole (Tom Wikinson)