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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword




King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

05/18/17
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



 A pre-king Arthur finds Excalibur in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, a very Guy Ritchie take on the Arthurian legend.

I feel I should mention at the outset that due to technical difficulties at the theater where I saw the movie, I missed the first five or so minutes of the movie. So maybe there was some combination of title cards and narration that made the movie magical. Maybe, but I doubt it.
Nevertheless, I was able to get Arthur’s backstory, which is that once upon a time in post-Roman-ish England, King Uther (Eric Bana) and his queen (Poppy Delevingne) are killed by Uther’s brother Vortigern (Jude Law), who also steals his crown. Though Vortigern tries to kill baby Arthur, he gets away and floats, Moses-style, down the river to Londinium, where he is pulled out and taken care of by some ladies from the local brothel.
In montage, we see Arthur grow up hard at the brothel, learning to fight, making money from odd jobs and petty crime and, after studying with the local kung fu master George (Tom Wu), protecting the ladies and generally becoming the big noise for his section of the city, protection-
racket-wise. (Perhaps you’re thinking “I’m sorry, the kung fu what now?” but I’m going to suggest you just let that one ride because all things kung fu-related in this movie are silly fun.)
Greasing the palms of local law enforcement and muscling money out of local traders with his buddies Back Lack (Neil Maskell) and Wet Stick (Kingsley Ben-Adir) — and occasionally Back Lack’s young son Blue (Bleu Landau), who I guess is learning the hooligan trade — Arthur has a good life going until he accidentally roughs up the wrong Vikings. The king’s men come for him and he winds up on a boat with a bunch of other men his age. Seems that, also Moses-style, all the young men of the kingdom are being rounded up. Only instead of being killed they’re just being branded after they try the sword stuck in a stone outside the castle. Once they can’t move it, they get their “not-Arthur” mark and are on their way (or maybe are enslaved, I’m not sure).
Of course, Arthur finds that he can, in fact, wiggle sword from stone. Vortigern tries to execute him but men who have been waiting for the “lost king” — and a symbolic head to their “Never Vortigern” resistance — rescue him. Soon Arthur finds himself hiding out with a rag-tag group including Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou), Goosefat Bill (Aidan Gillen, a.k.a. Littlefinger) and a wizard lady called The Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey).
The least interesting part of this King Arthur story is anything to do with the Arthurian legend. All the sword-in-the-stone/Lady of the Lake stuff is very incidental to what makes this movie moderately amusing, which, not surprisingly for a Guy Ritchie-directed movie, is guys with nearly indecipherable accents planning or describing some kind of crime or caper. Also, the fighting, some of the fighting is fun — the hand-to-hand combat, the guys running down grimy Londinium alleys.
More Guy Ritchie-ing, less Arthuring is I guess where I come down. The legend, the sword — all this feels very subpar, like the ye olde England version of that spate of increasingly grade-B ancient Greece- and Rome-related movies that came out in the decade following The 300. But Hunnam is actually a fun action actor — and, yes, not hard on the eyes. I never watched Sons of Anarchy so I don’t have a deep background in his work, but from this I can see the makings of a solid action movie hero in the vein of Chris Hemsworth. The supporting characters and their anachronistic speech patterns are also fun. And, sure, Jude Law probably spends a little too much time in monologue mode, but Vortigern is a decent enough villain.
For what it is, which is a middling action movie with fancy camera work but that doesn’t take itself too seriously, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword isn’t bad. For a movie released during blockbuster season, this weekend-on-the-couch basic-cable fare is way out of its league. C+
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong language. Directed by Guy Ritchie with a screenplay by Joby Harold and Guy Ritchie & Lionel Wigram (from a story by David Dobkin and Joby Harold, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is two hours and six minutes long and is distributed by Warner Bros.
 





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