You can say what you want about Guy Ritchie’s films, but there’s no denying that the divisive director is one with a distinctive style. Whether or not you’re a fan of said style will inevitable influence your feeling toward his latest picture, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, which blends Arthurian mythology with the cockney comedy of his previous films such as Snatch and ‘Lock Stock’. If that’s a concept which sounds bizarre, that’s because it is. But whilst the film itself is hugely flawed in places, it’s this strange combination of action and autership that makes it one of the most unique blockbusters to have been made in recent years.
Charlie Hunnam, an actor who continues to impress here after his stellar performance in The Lost City of Z, plays the titular king; this time imagined as a rough-and-ready orphan, raised in a brothel on the streets of Londinium. Through an altercation with a group of vikings, Arthur finds himself in a line-up of commoners brought before Jude Law’s evil king Vortigern, to try and pull the ancient sword Excalibur from its stone prison. When it’s revealed that Arthur is the true king to the throne of Camelot, he and his trusted band of cockney geezers must lead a rebellion against Vortigern and reclaim the throne, battling all manner of creatures and villains along the way.
Zipping along at a relentless pace, ‘Legend of the Sword’ features all the kinetic editing and snappy dialogue of Ritchie’s previous films. It’s something that takes a while to get used to at first, proving quite disconcerting in the film’s opening battle sequence that features giant elephants and evil Mage causing carnage on a grandiose scale. But once you’ve settled into the rhythm of the whole thing, once you’ve realised that it’s a deliberate attempt at doing something different as opposed to a simple hack job, there really is a lot of fun to be had with this incredibly silly fantasy film.
Sure, there are plenty of issues throughout; a cameo from a certain famous footballer distracts from what should have been one of the film’s most memorable and most powerful scenes, and some of the action sequences, particularly the final battle between Arthur and Vortigern, do look and feel like a video game has been projected onto the big screen.
Like most summer blockbusters, ‘Legend of the Sword’ is far from perfect. But with a strong cast, some punchy dialogue, and, perhaps most importantly, really engaging direction from Guy Ritchie, it is strangely captivating at the very least. And when you add to the mix a terrifically brooding score from Daniel Pemberton, as well as John Mathieson’s striking cinematography, it is one of the most memorable popcorn movies I’ve seen in quite a while.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is released in UK cinemas on May 17th.
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