Action movies have been getting a bad rap for a long time. They have been accused of being flat, straightforward, shoot em up violence extravaganzas that are only meant to be a form of flashy entertainment with no value whatsoever. Unfortunately, the trend hasn’t really gotten any better. While big-budget action films may have the money to pay for great stunts and action, a lot of times it seems the preferred way to make a particular action scene exciting is to shake the camera. Fortunately, there is one director who artfully uses his camera to tell complex stories full of action, humor, and cockney accents. This director is Guy Ritchie. His filmmaking style is distinctly his own and is clever while at the same time accentuating action sequences, instead of blurring them. This week’s two films highlight some of Guy Ritchie’s directing accomplishments.
Length: 128 minutes / 2.13 hours
For a director who specialized in modern British heist films, Sherlock Holmes (2009) was a step in a somewhat different direction. Of course, this wasn’t in the direction of his 2002 flop, Swept Away (heavily influenced by his then-wife, Madonna), but was instead an expansion into period pieces. After all, Sherlock Holmes is still set in London and still deals with mystery (much like his previous heist films). The only difference with this movie was that it was a bit more of a historical piece. Ritchie really did his homework on this one, as this Sherlock Holmes series strays from the cliché of its predecessor and advances into the more realistic, and is truer to the source material it is based upon.
The box office success of Sherlock Holmes speaks volumes of Ritchie’s handling of the iconic character. Set in the late 19th century, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) are a mystery-solving duo who have just thwarted the plans of Lord Blackwell (Mark Strong). And yet, when it appears that Blackwell has been resurrected after his hanging, the game is afoot once again. It seems the mystery that Holmes had solved was only the tip of the iceberg, as he and Dr. Watson follow a trail of murders which eventually lead them to Parliament itself. Can they stop Blackwell’s plan in time, or will he succeed in tilting the political tables toward his favor?
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours
About five years ago, I saw a film named Rock’N’Rolla (2008). I had found it to be an interesting movie, not only as an action flick but as a heist film as well. A few months later, I saw Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and was blown away by its intricacy and humor. It was at this point when I learned about Guy Ritchie, the director of both films. His debut film, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels was what set his style and his unique take on the heist film. He followed suit with other films such as Snatch (2000) and Revolver (2005), re-using some of the same actors introduced to America in his first film (such as Jason Statham). While he has started to branch out to other, similar genres, the heist film will always be his home.
Many heist films start with the main characters in financial trouble. This one is no different. Bacon (Jason Statham) and his friends Soap (Dexter Fletcher) and Tom (Jason Flemyng) gather up £100,000 so their friend Eddy (Nick Moran) can play in a high-stakes card game. Unfortunately, not only does Eddy lose the money, he racks up his debt to £500,000, which he and his friends must pay by the end of the week (or risk losing their fingers). Fortunately, Eddy overhears his neighbors talking about a drug heist, which leads our main characters to ambush them upon their return home from said heist. In perhaps one of the most bumbling simultaneous heists ever committed, soon everyone is chasing after everyone else, and the prize at the center of it all is a pair of antique shotguns, of which most of the players don’t even realize are as valuable as they are.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Guy Ritchie romps
Bacon #: 3 (I’m Going to Tell You a Secret / Maddona -> Maddona: Truth or Dare / Matt Dillon -> Loverboy / Kevin Bacon)