Chances are, if you are watching a film and suddenly a bunch of buddies with British accents fly across the screen while the camera barrel rolls under falling shotgun shells with loud heavy music cranking in the background, you’re watching a Guy Ritchie movie.
That’s roaight, mate.
Ten years ago, he took the world by surprise with his independent film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, grabbing #38 on the well-respected British magazine Total Film’s best Brit films of all time. Incidentally, he later married (and recently divorced) his sponsor for the film: Madonna.
Lock, Stock well deserved all the fame it got. With slick writing, hilarious fun, in-your-face violence, and a rockin’ score to boot, it more than put Ritchie on the map, securing Hollywood contracts for him for the rest of his life.
His cinematography was new, gritty, and fun; his acting direction superb. It was Ritchie’s Lock, Stock that introduced the world to its new action hero: world class diver and martial artist Jason Statham, whose backflip in Smoking Barrels, along with most of his stunts, was his own.
In one of the best “buddy” films you will ever see, Statham and pals shoot, play, and drink their way through a rowdy underworld adventure, with acting chemistry that could only be the work of a fresh, highly-talented director.
But Guy’s films began to lose their newness after that. His 2008 RocknRolla, though visually stimulating with a smart Tom Wilkinson, replays the same tricks that Guy showed us in Snatch and Lock, Stock: criminal buddies against a high-rise mob boss who screwed them in the first place with various queers and quirks in the mix. (Although this time, one of those is the hot and talented Thandie Newton.) Gerard Butler takes the lead but fails to convince as the action serial hot rod. We almost imagine his Phantom mask to magically appear along with his bloodied Spartan 300 sword.
Embraced it was, by movie goers at least. Downey, Jr.’s masterful acting gave a new lease on life to the character many envision to be tall, rigid, and un-fun. (I especially enjoyed the Ritchie-Downey pre-fight monologues.)
Special effects are the first of Richie’s dangers. At 41 years old, Ritchie is poised for a long and continuously successful film career. His fans are ravenous, but will eat him up if he succumbs to the crutches of overly-CG spectacles and if he won’t stop writing himself into the wall of his own re-used plot.
It seems this talented filmmaker, the acclaimed screenwriter of Christopher Nolan’s complicated Memento, has a lot of new tricks still to pull. And as anticipation for his 2011 Sherlock sequel mounts Rotten Tomatoes charts at 93, we hope all his upcoming films will prove his masterful work thus far to have been “elementary.”