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Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Guy Ritchie
prd Ivan Atkinson, Bill Block, Guy Ritchie
with Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan, Tom Wu, Bugzy Malone, Samuel West, John Dagleish
release UK 3.Jan.20, US 24.Jan.20
20/UK Miramax 1h53
Guy Ritchie returns to the London crime milieu that made his name, offering plenty to snap and crackle if very little actual pop. It's a stylish film with an enjoyably movie meta-twisty plot and roles impeccably designed for talented scene-stealers. And the casting itself is packed with hilariously ironic touches. But there's otherwise so little to it that it begins vanishing into dust while we're watching it.
Rhodes scholar Mickey (McConaughey) dropped out of Oxford to become a hugely successful weed dealer. Now he wants to retire with his edgy-smart wife Rosalind (Dockery), so he's selling to smooth American kingpin Mathew (Strong). Then he gets a counter-offer from Chinese dragon Dry Eye (Golding), sneaking behind the back of his boss Lord George (Wu). But a group of rappers raid one of Michael's secret farms, leading him to their Coach (Farrell), who now owes him one. Stir in some junkies, goons and Russians, and it's not going to end happily for everyone.
The narrative unfolds with pages of exposition recited largely by hack journalist Fletcher (a barnstorming Grant) to Mickey's righthand man Raymond (Hunnam). This means that we're told the story rather than shown it, so the script can cycle around later to drop in necessary revelations, as well as some unnecessary ones. Intriguingly, Richie focuses more on chatty negotiations than violent conflicts, most of which he leaves off-screen. This raises the intrigue, even if there isn't any point at which the audience can feel involved.
This is a lot of fun for the actors, who infuse their interaction with raucous touches. Grant is on top form, relishing each strangled East End vowel while exuding Fletcher's misplaced confidence. Golding is the other scene-chomper as a hothead with ideas above his station. And Strong adds some camp arrogance to the conniving Mathew. Hunnam largely plays straight man, but gets some sparky moments of his own. Meanwhile, McConaughey strolls through scenes relatively effortlessly, adding some snarky intensity to his usual relaxed persona.
Ritchie's directing style is relatively subdued, letting snappy dialog and witty editing add energetic rhythms. Since the characters are holding our attention, the tangled narrative becomes somewhat tedious at times, especially as key moments are withheld to provide surprises later. But the main problem is that there aren't any stakes, no point of connection with the real world and virtually no emotional subtext. So the film's legacy is likely to consist of little more than plaid sweatsuits and yet another fabulous Hugh Grant reinvention.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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