On The Reel: In Honor Of King Arthur And Guy Ritchie

King Arthur is in theaters, but what other Guy Ritchie-inspired flicks can you watch at home?

The era of “peak TV” also means an abundance of entertainment, and some of it right at our fingertips. You don’t have time to go through it all with your job, kids, video games, and maybe even your gambling addiction. If only there was some cocky little sh*t willing to comb through it all…well you’re in luck because here I am. Every week, On The Reel will give you something to watch in theaters, a couple shows or movies to stream, and maybe even a hidden gem or two.

I love Guy Ritchie. There’s something about his style and tone that speaks to me. Whether it’s the way he explores the London underworld — no not Underworld — in movies like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, reinventing Sherlock Holmes with his brashness and wit, or just wondering how in the hell his voice will translate to Disney’s Aladdin live-action remake. Yes, the man responsible for this clip below will be the same man charged with bringing the Genie to life.

This week, On The Reel focuses on Ritchie’s latest in theaters this week, a forgotten flick in his catalog, and two other movies similar in style that clearly owe him a debt of gratitude.

King Arthur…Again?

Ritchie is bringing us King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, which I believe is the 1000th film version of the legendary story. I’m only interested in this because he’s behind the camera as I have no particular love or interest in Charlie Hunnam. Having not seen Sons of Anarchy, my only experience with the dude is Pacific Rim and that was a big no thank you. Hopefully he brings more energy and joy to Arthur and is interesting to watch on film. Yeah, he’s got Jude Law and Djimon Hounsou to help him out, but the movie is really all on his shoulders. If he doesn’t work, none of it works, and it doesn’t matter how cool Ritchie makes it look or how much awesome the dialogue will be.

That aside, what makes this version of the story different from all the others, including Antoine Fuqua’s 2004 flick? I’m glad you asked! Ritchie is reimagining Arthur as the leader of a street gang, unaware of who he is or what he is until he pulls Excalibur out of the stone. Needless to say, this adaptation will be the first where Arthur is a small-time gangster before becoming king. But as I said before, it’s a Guy Ritchie movie and gangsters are kind of his forte.

What’s A Rocknrolla?

Speaking of gangsters, 2008’s Rocknrolla is criminally slept on. It didn’t get a wide release in ’08 and was even tougher to find on home video when I went searching every damn outhouse, doghouse, and Best Buy house trying to find it. But it was well worth the journey and puzzled looks. The flick stars Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, Gerard Butler, Thandie Newton, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Strong, Toby Kebbel, Ludacris, and Jeremy Piven. That’s an incredible cast and I’m leaving some people out.

The basic premise is this: Wilkinson plays a London power broker who has his hands in every bit of business in and around town, including the underworld. Through a small twist of fate, his step son (Kebbel), his number 2 (Strong) and three local gangsters (Elba, Hardy, Butler) all get wrapped up in his latest real estate deal and it causes headaches for everyone involved. If sex, drugs, guns, and British slang tickle your fancy, then Rocknrolla is for you. It’s also got a dope soundtrack which features prominently in the flick and may be Ritchie’s most effortlessly cool production. If I tell you anymore, I’d be spoiling everything, including the third act twist, so please, for the sake of everything holy in this world, watch Rocknrolla.

What’s a Kansas City Shuffle?

I saw Lucky Number Slevin at a small movie theater in Queens back in ’06. It was me and a couple of friends just out for the night and picking a random movie. Since my homie couldn’t resist anything with Morgan Freeman, this was the pick and you know what? None of us regretted it.

Lucky Number Slevin owes a lot to Ritchie’s penchant for building a proper universe for his gangsters to run amok. They don’t speak the way we speak in the real world and have their own set of rules to govern behavior or even life and death. Everyone is cool, they always know what to say next, and hardly anyone sweats, even when looking down the barrel of a gun. It should come as no surprise the director, Paul McGuigan, is of Scottish decent and gone on to direct episodes of Sherlock, Luke Cage, and responsible for the very Guy Ritchie-esque, Gangster №1. He has an understanding for the way the “cops and robbers” story should work while never losing sight of his characters.

If there’s one criticism I had of the movie then and still have now, it’s that its characters may be a little too clever. It’s a minor complaint, but sometimes snappy dialogue gets in the way of character work all in the name of being cool and serving the overall tone of the flick rather than going a little beyond that. But like I said, minor.

“You Ain’t Never Seen Bad Boys 2?”

Hot Fuzz isn’t in dire need of recognition, but for those of you who haven’t seen Edgar Wright’s 2007 flick, why the hell didn’t you? Well, no matter, because here’s your chance.

Hot Fuzz stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as cops in a small London town that’s hiding a dark secret. It’s Wright’s loving homage to action movies, including the kind Ritchie makes with fast cuts, fast dialogue, and a downright infatuation with third act twists. It’s over the top, smart, has great action scenes, and is made for the action lover in you. And it’s just another example of how the British possibly make better action flicks than Americans.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword drops in theaters Friday, May 12. Rocknrolla is available to rent or buy on Amazon and iTunes, Lucky Number Slevin and Hot Fuzz can both be found on Netflix.

Marcus Benjamin is a danger to the public, an alum of American University, St. John’s University, a screenwriter, and has an intense relationship with words. Witness his tomfoolery on Twitter, @AbstractPo3tic.

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