Tag: guy ritchie


Avengement (2019)
★★★ / ★★★★

Independent action film “Avengement” offers more than bone-crunching violence. It tells the story of an inmate furloughed to visit his dying mother then uses the opportunity to escape and exact vengeance against those responsible for putting him behind the most violent prison in England. The trajectory of the plot is straightforward, as many revenge pictures, but it is told in a clear, confident, entertaining, and amusing manner despite half the events being revealed through flashbacks. It is not afraid to allow its colorful characters to speak—note the handful of extended tough guy dialogue. Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino come to mind when one considers the screenplay, albeit not as potent or polished. Scott Adkins portrays the hardened criminal Cain with a balance of charm and danger. His clever quips can just as easily turn into a rabid dog tantrum. At the same time we believe the pain and betrayal behind those eyes so we root for his survival. Directed by Jesse V. Johnson who co-wrote the work with Stu Small.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
★★ / ★★★★

A CIA agent, Solo (Henry Cavill), and a KGB operative, Illya (Armie Hammer), are forced to work together in order to infiltrate an organization that kidnapped a scientist who has found a way to enrich uranium through an easier process, making it possible for almost anyone to create a nuclear bomb. Accompanying them on their mission is a mechanic named Gaby (Alicia Vikander), a woman that Solo had just extracted from East Berlin—and Illya tried to prevent from escaping. They must learn to put their differences aside somehow and work toward a common goal.

Based on a 1964 television series, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” directed by Guy Ritchie, has an eye for fashion, good-looking people, and lighting the actors just so in order to make their bodies look modelesque, but it is a limited action-comedy because the screenplay lacks the necessary edge to get the audience to invest in its story. It is superficial for the most part, but one cannot deny that it is partially fun and the performers, especially Cavill and Hammer, share chemistry.

The most enjoyable action sequence in the film is presented during the opening minutes. Right away the differences between the American and the Russian spies are highlighted which creates great tension. The former is more suave and debonair while the latter is more brutish, commanding tank-like qualities. Quite amusing is the part where Illya tries to stop a moving car using only his hands and Solo is so amused at the whole spectacle, he chooses not to kill his enemy to prolong his enjoyment. Their differences make the sequences worth watching because of the way these vastly different characters attempt to solve problems that appear in front of them.

Less interesting is when they are forced to forge a partnership. Although amusing lines are still present, especially when they relish each other’s limitations, the threat and thus suspense is no longer there. This is because there is a lack of a defined and memorable villain who is at least equally charming as Hammer and Cavill. The screenplay creates a plethora and varying degrees of distractions, such as a possible romantic connection between Gaby and one of the agents, but none of them are especially complex, worthy of our time to explore or navigate through.

One grows tired of the plot and story eventually. I found myself admiring the sorts of wine the characters drink, the hotel rooms and how they are organized, the quality and color of the suits and dresses worn, how the performers’ hair is styled and how it would look even more magazine-ready when it gets ruffled or wet. It is a beautiful-looking movie, certainly, promoting a luxurious, rather fantastic lifestyles of international spies—which is perfectly all right because it aims to entertain—but there is a deficiency when it comes to the requisite dramatic gravity in order to make the story interesting beyond what is on the surface.

“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” based on the screenplay by Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram, is a tolerable and passable comedic action-thriller with enough charm that helps to keep it barely afloat. Yet despite its glaring shortcomings, I smiled about half of the time because I had a feeling the people on screen are having a blast especially during the verbal sparrings between Cavill and Hammer’s characters.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
★★ / ★★★★

Newspapers pegged anarchists as responsible for the recent bombings in Europe. Everyone was nervous that the bombings would eventually spin out of control and war among European nations would ensue. Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) suspected foul play, believing that someone smarter and more cunning was behind the terrorist attacks. When not flirting with the beautiful Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), a contract purloiner of all things important, Holmes served as a friendly thorn on Dr. John Watson’s (Jude Law) side, attempting to convince his friend that getting married was tantamount to a lifelong enslavement. “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” written by Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney, was a movie so intent to impress, it almost won me over despite its clunky plot and distracting–although at times impressive–technical gadgetry. What prevented me from being fully immersed in the film was catching myself sitting passively waiting for something really interesting to happen. Although twists and turns were abound, each successive surprise suffered from diminishing returns. At one point I wondered what other type of tricks it had, if any, in its bag. There were two well-executed scenes that matched the material’s ambition. First, the train scene in which Holmes and Dr. Watson had to escape from assassins sent by Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) wielded a certain level of suspense mixed with glee. Of course, given that the train had a lot of small spaces, the script capitalized on the weird sexual chemistry between the duo–some angles taken from typical pornographic positions–which I found hilarious. Second, the chase scene through the woods as Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Madam Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace), a gypsy fortuneteller, evaded bullets, cannonballs, and rockets was quite inspired. I found it a standout because the slow motion highlighted the artistry of the action scene instead of merely bombarding the audience with quick cuts. It was interesting to see certain images like how a bullet scraped a tree and how loamy soil fell onto the characters after a cannonball hit the ground with great force. The scene was a nice change from boring hand-to-hand combat where choppy editing met a vague semblance of martial arts. Why wasn’t uninterrupted physical combat shown more often? Furthermore, the flashback scenes were as ineffective as the sequences where Holmes weighed how a battle would play out. By allowing us to see what would or could happen next before it actually happened, the filmmakers left no tension for us to bathe in. Both the flashbacks and fast-forwards were not used as astutely–in this case, far from sparingly–it should have in order to increase the drama. Directed by Guy Ritchie, the biggest problem that “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” suffered from was although it had a lot of fun on the outside, it needed to work on real emotions so the audiences would be more invested in whatever was going on. Since it failed to inject gravity into more serious moments, when a key character died, for instance, it felt like a mere plot convenience than a genuine loss of a character some of us have grown to like.

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes (2009)
★★ / ★★★★

Based on Lionel Wigram’s comic books, “Sherlock Holmes,” directed by Guy Ritchie, was an underwhelming experience because it was very confusing at its worst and only somewhat exciting at its best. Unlike most people, I didn’t mind the “upgrade” from the traditional Sherlock Holmes. Holmes in this film was a sleuth who was extremely observant, logical and knew martial arts. In fact, I welcomed such a change because I like watching different interpretations of characters embedded in our pop culture. In “Sherlock Holmes,” the popular detective (Robert Downey Jr.) and his partner Dr. Watson (Jude Law) investigated the strange murders Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) promised would happen right before his death. Was something supernatural going on or was there a logical explanation to all of it? To make things more complicated, Holmes’ former love interest (Rachel McAdams) came into the picture with tricks up her sleeve and loyalties that were even harder to read. I didn’t like the fact that all the explanations were given to the audiences toward the end of the film. It would have been so much more engaging and less confusing if Holmes shared what he was thinking from time to time instead of just trying to be funny or getting under Watson’s nerves. After all, despite the modern interpretation, his core character should have been a detective first and perhaps a comedian second (or fifth). While Downey Jr. and Law did have good chemistry, it wasn’t enough for the movie to feel concrete as we headed toward the climax. I also didn’t feel like they had a really strong bond–like they complemented each other. The picture was too busy shaping the action sequences (which I found entertaining) that it neglected (or didn’t care about) character development. However, in a way, I kind of expected it because Ritchie’s films are usually heavy on style and light on substance (“RocknRolla,” “Snatch”). Still, I hoped that he would strive for something more as a filmmaker instead of resting on what he already knew. The picture also could have used another dimension by standing on the line between logic and magic throughout most of the film. When the answer is too obvious, it’s difficult to feel engaged. “Sherlock Holmes” isn’t a bad movie but it is a generic one. That’s my main problem with it. If you’re going to take a really popular character and change it drastically, you’re going to have to be willing to push the envelope all the way instead of just halfway through. Perhaps the sequel will do a better job with taking risks because the cast and crew will be more comfortable in their respective roles. (Or at least they should be because this installment was a success in the box office.) It needs to stop trying to be so amusing and focus on the detective work at hand without confusing and alienating their viewers.


RocknRolla (2008)
★★ / ★★★★

This is another picture about the London underworld which focuses on different kinds of groups who wield power (or peceive themselves to wield power when they really do not) and the dynamics within such groups. Even though I have no idea what is going on most of the time despite how much I try to pay attention, I did enjoy some scenes scattered throughout the film. There are a lot of familiar faces here such as Thandie Newton, Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Jeremy Piven and even Ludacris. But I don’t think Guy Ritchie, the writer and director, was efficient enough in pushing his actors to the best of their abilities. However, Wilkinson did a great job (as always) as one of the leaders of crooks running all over London. I was most interested whenever the camera was on him because his responses to certain changes in the story were unpredictable and the way he delivered his lines often had a morbid undertone that surpasses a mere threat. I also liked the fact that Ritchie highlighted the homoeroticism that’s consistent among these type of films. Instead of shying away from it, Ritchie included some really funny scenes between Butler and Tom Hardy. Even more impressive is the fact that those jokes felt natural–it’s something that I can actually hear from these “tough guys.” I guess my main problem with this film is that I never felt utterly included in the events that are unfolding. I think if Ritchie works on that in the second part of this trilogy (if they do make it), I would like it a bit more. This film is definitely for the fans of “Snatch” and “Layer Cake.” The cool factor is there, there are interesting characters (though more than half of them are underdeveloped), but most importantly, the humor is consistent. It just needed a bit more polishing.