King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
dir Guy Ritchie
scr Joby Harold, Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram
prd Akiva Goldsman, Lionel Wigram, Guy Ritchie, Joby Harold, Tory Tunnell, Steve Clark-Hall
with Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Freddie Fox, Annabelle Wallis, Peter Ferdinando, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Neil Maskell, Tom Wu, Eric Bana
release US 12.May.17, UK 18.May.17
17/UK Warner 2h06
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
The rightful king: Hounsou and Hunnam

law berges-frisbey gillen
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Guy Ritchie brings his usual whizzy kick to this energetic, entertaining retelling of the legend. The dialog is full of crackling banter infused with fresh contemporary angles, which gives the actors some gristle to chew on as they fill scenes with both big attitudes and deeper themes. So why is Ritchie in such a terrible rush to tell the tale?

In medieval Britain, King Uther (Bana) is killed in an attack his brother Vortigern (Law) orchestrates with black magic. Vortigern then rules with a violent rage because the rightful king, Uther's infant son Arthur, has survived. So he tests every suitably aged man to see if they can pull Uther's sword Excalibur from the stone. It turns out that Arthur was spirited to Londinium, raised as a street urchin in a brothel and grew into a muscled tough guy (Hunnam). And once he discovers his true heritage, all kinds of magical mayhem is unleashed.

What follows is an epic chase as Arthur joins the rebels (including Hounsou, Gillen and Berges-Frisbey) and assisted by old pals (including Ben-Adir and Maskell), while Vortigern's chief goon (Ferdinando) chases him. Every action sequence starts as a "this is what I'll do" montage, then morphs into a "this is what happened" montage, which is rather disappointing. We know what took place, but we didn't really get to see anything. While this approach keeps things brisk, visually inventive and character-focussed, it eliminates suspense.

At the centre, Hunnam offers a superbly beefy performance with layers of underlying interest. Arthur's self-image is yanked out from under him, forcing him to redefine what drives him. Hunnam has terrific presence, squaring off against his costars with relish, developing intriguing angles of camaraderie and antagonism. Law has fun glowering in a role that only rarely has a touch of emotional depth. And the woman are all sidelined shamelessly.

The film is a jumble of supernatural mumbo jumbo and gritty working-man muscle. These two elements jostle for attention in most scenes, but Ritchie speeds through everything so quickly that it's easy to just hang on for the thrill ride. There are some surprisingly meaningful moments along the way, exploring identity and the nature of power. And as this scrappy team comes together, there are promising signs about where the story can go from here. Although it sadly seems unlikely that Ritchie will continue the narrative himself.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 16.May.17

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