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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword


Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Mikael Persbrandt, Eric Bana, Annabelle Wallis, Peter Ferdinando, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Geoff Bell, Freddie Fox, Craig McGinlay, Lorraine Bruce, Eline Powell

Director: Guy Ritchie

You would be justified if you had assumed the distributors would have released this $175 million mediaeval mishmash on Thursday 23rd November.


Because that’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States and the public is already well prepared for turkeys - and turkeys don’t come much plumper than Ritchie’s trashy take on the much-filmed legend.

King Arthur has long been a cinematic staple for live-action and Disney animation and featuring, among others, Richard Harris’s warbling monarch, Cedric Hardwicke, Mel Ferrer, Sean Connery and Clive Owen as the Camelot legend.

The results were mixed but at least all the previous portrayers were spared director Ritchie’s overexcited and underwhelming treatment - here the credits inform us that this is “A GUY RITCHIE FILM” and confirm his guilt by crediting him as producer and cowriter with Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram.

Here Law’s evil Vortigern (whose stagey performance is surely destined for an Oscar for Leading Luvvie) seizes the crown after Arthur’s father is murdered, leaving the once and future king (who was born in a brothel) to escape, grow up in geezer-infested Londonium and then fulfill his destiny by drawing the fabled sword Excalibur from its stone and setting out to sort out Law and murderous minions…

Given the crass dialogue and mostly pantomime performances, the film’s one saving grace are the award-worthy special effects that create spectacle ad-lib, including massive armies in bloody conflict, unlikely vistas, tentacle terrors and, improbably, giant elephants who kick castles to pieces.

Be thankful you never lived in Ritchie’s Ancient Englande.

But it would take far more than the most talented creators of movie magic could achieve to make David Beckham’s excruciatingly risible turn as a Cockney soldier who eggs Arthur on to try his hand at pulling the enchanted sword from the story anything other than unforgettably embarrassing. Despite the unmistakeable evidence, auteur Ritchie is quoted as saying Beckham is “a talented actor”.

Hunnam is a good actor and does his best to make Ritchie’s Arthur memorable but, in truth, he lacks that unique star charisma that so many movie greats used to add mustard to ham and might have saved the show; while to name the hard-working supporting actors would be unfair.

So cinematic spectacle steals a show that, in truth, isn’t really worth stealing.

In line with other Ritchie legends such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and Rocknrolla, Cockney geezers fill the supporting roles with accents which, like Ray Winstone’s in Beowulf, seem more than a tad out of place in the days of King Arthur.

Still, that’s Show Business, along with the giant bats, huge pachyderms, massive multi-tentacled creatures and other unlikely inhabitants of Merrie England conjured up by Ritchie and his movie magicians.

Many lines of dialogue (yes, taken out of context of course but sadly all-too-appropriate in the circumstances!) sum up the film far better than I could.

How about the early “What’s going on?”. “What’s this all about?”. “You’re giving me a headache” or “I feel a joke coming on”. (I must have missed it).

Then there’s “I need someone going to tell me where we’re going?” and, a thought likely to be shared by many paying moviegoers, “I want to get my arse out of here”.

Berges-Frisbey’s improbable witch/clairvoyant sums the film up neatly when she states “It will show you all the things you don’t want to see” and when Hunnam finally states “I’m going down the hole now”, the film itself has long ago beaten him to it.

Early on someone asks “How do you get money out of Vikings?” An effective way might be to let the Vikings into the cinema free and then make them pay – and pay heavily too – to be allowed to leave before King Arthur: Legend of the Sword ends.

P.S. Steven Mnuchin, one of the film's several producers, has been confirmed as US Treasury Secretary. Now THAT'S Show Business!

Alan Frank

USA 2017. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by ACES.
126 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 20 May 2017