Dir: Guy Ritchie
Star: Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Mark Strong

With the departure of Madge from Ritchie's life, this is something of a return to form: Swept Away, it is not. However, neither is it Snatch, even if it shares something of the same plot structure, and certainly the same setting, in the dodgy dealings of old-school London gangsters. It centers on the dealings between British crimeboss Lenny Cole (Wilkinson) and Russian "free-market entrepreneur", Yuri Omovich. The latter is to pay seven million Euros to the former, for services rendered in getting his property deal through, but a crooked accountant (Newton), keeps tipping off One Two (Butler) who steals the cash, not once, but twice. Cole, meanwhile, was loaned Omovich's lucky painting, only for it to be taken, with the lead suspect Cole's estranged stepson, a rock-star and smack addict, who is supposedly dead. Add in the presence of an unknown a police informant, as well as a thoroughly unexpected (and, let's be honest, not very necessary) gay subplot, and it's clear you've got enough going on here to fuel several less complicated movies.

However, the sense this gives, as opposed to Ritchie's previous work, where it was a feeling of beautifully-crafted complexity, is more of a desperate heaving of threads at the script, in the hope something will stick. Don't like this plot? No problem, there'll be another one along in a minute. It's pretty clear that Butler is in a role intended for Jason Statham: the fit isn't a good one, and too many of the other characters also feel like recycled versions from previous movies. There are some sequences which work, most notably a robbery that ends up in a foot-chase against a couple of apparently unstoppable Russian foot-soldiers. However, it still remains a mess of a movie, one which lacks the focus it sorely needs. I do remain curious to see his upcoming version of Sherlock Holmes - as long as it doesn't cram the plots from Hound of the Baskervilles, The Sign of Four and A Study in Scarlet into one movie.

[September 2009]

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