Guy Ritchie gives the Arthurian legend the full 'Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels' treatment.
Alright chinas, we need to have a rabbit and pork about Guv Ritchie’s new $175 million rattle and clank buster: Kin Arfur: Jackanory of the Drum and Fife - an altogether pony and trap reimagining of the classic weep and wail that’s light on the brass tacks, sore on the mince pies and pretty much tom tit.
But, as they say, 'a lump of ice to the wise’: if you struggled to follow the above, consider it a cinematic version of the ‘you must be this tall to get on the ride’ sign for Guy Ritchie’s calamitous take on the famous Arthurian tale. As with every Ritchie flick, cockney banter flies thick and fast between Arthur's merry band of streetwise vagabonds in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, all of whom sport names like Goose-fat Bill, Wet Stick, Back Lack and Chinese George. Unlike Ritchie's previous outings, however, there’s little of that Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels wit or charm to back up the slang.
Instead, we’re given in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword a CGI-heavy ‘action/adventure’ romp moving at such a frantic and disjointed pace, simply keeping up with the story feels like a greater test of character and strength than actually pulling Excalibur from the stone. Worse still, there’s nothing new about any of it. Between the giant elephants (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King), ‘bullet-time’ slow motion (The Matrix) and an enormous killer snake (Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets) - it’s all far too much like a video game we’ve played many times before and know exactly how to beat.
There are, at least, a few notable highlights. Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law both put in commendable performances as Arthur and his evil uncle Vortigern, with Law in particular ensnaring the eye for every second he’s on screen. Villainy suits the actor, whose charm and cheekiness take on a decidedly darker turn when given the right material with which to play. There’s also a neat little twist on the sword/stone component itself, which - at least for a time - raises King Arthur: Legend of the Sword to a level worthy of its storied subject matter.
In all, though, there’s far too much style and not nearly enough substance to hold its loose narrative threads together. Snaps cuts and fancy editing helped put Guy Ritchie on the map, but in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword there’s no duck and diving the fact that it’s all gone proper pete and tong.