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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Guy Ritchie gives the Arthurian legend the full Lock Stock cockney treatment.
By Tom Glasson
May 18, 2017
By Tom Glasson
May 18, 2017

Alright chinas, we need to have a rabbit and pork about Guy Ritchie's new $175 million rattle and clank buster: Kin Arfur: Jackanory of the Drum and Fife – an altogether pony and trap reimagining of the classic weep and wail that's light on the brass tacks, sore on the mince pies and pretty much tom tit.

If you struggled to understand that, consider it our version of the "you must be this tall to get on the ride" sign for Guy Ritchie's calamitous take on the famous Arthurian tale. As with every Ritchie flick (see: Snatch, RocknRolla and Sherlock Holmes, among others), cockney banter flies thick and fast between Arthur's merry band of streetwise vagabonds, all of whom sport names like Goose-fat Bill, Wet Stick, Back Lack and Chinese George. Unlike Ritchie's previous outings, however, there's little wit or charm to back up the slang.

Instead, we're given in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword a CGI-heavy romp that moves at such a frantic and disjointed pace that simply keeping up with the story feels like a greater test of character and strength than actually pulling Excalibur from the stone. Worse still, there's nothing new about any of it. Between the giant elephants (Return of the King), the 'bullet-time' slow motion (The Matrix) and an enormous killer snake (Harry Potter), it's all far too much like a video game we've played many times before and know exactly how to beat.

There are, at least, a few notable highlights. Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law both put in commendable performances as Arthur and his evil uncle Vortigern, with Law in particular ensnaring the eye for every second he's on screen. Villainy suits the actor, whose charm and cheekiness take on a decidedly darker turn when given the right material with which to play. There's also a neat little twist on the sword/stone component itself, which – at least for a time – raises King Arthur: Legend of the Sword to a level worthy of its storied subject matter.

Unfortunately, there's far too much style and not nearly enough substance to hold the film's loose narrative threads together. Snap cuts and fancy editing helped put Guy Ritchie on the map, but in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword there's no duck and diving the fact that it's all gone proper pete and tong.

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