It’s hard not to feel just a little bit sorry for Guy Richie. Yes, he may be a multi-millionaire, his life seemingly consisting of a succession of glitzy parties in a world of beautiful people and extravagant celebs. But at the same time he’s become a laughing stock. He’s in the public eye more thanks to being the husband of one of the most famous women on the planet, especially during the last few months of rumours of marital difficulties, than for any success of his own. And, lest we forget, it’s been ten years since he first hit the big time – and ten years since he last made a good film.
Over the last decade, Richie’s repeated failures in his attempts to come up with a movie that could even come close to the success and quality of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels has begun to get embarrassing. He may have managed to keep a few fans with his initial follow-up, the confused and desperate to be cool Snatch back in 2000, but after the dire vanity project Swept Away – Mrs Richie hooking up with a pretty-boy hunk on a desert island for two hours of frolics in the sand – his once shining star sank to such depths that the words “a Guy Richie film” have become little more than a mark of shoddy lack of originality. Little wonder that his last effort to return to the gangster genre in which he made his name, 2005’s Revolver, ended up little-watched by anyone, and slated by those who did see it.
After all these disappointments, it’s hardly a surprise that Richie’s latest offering – yes, another gangster movie – is hardly the most anticipated film of the year, nor that US distributors have reportedly got cold feet about putting it out across the pond. It’s been so long since Lock, Stock that it’s easy to forget just what it was that made it so popular at the time – and Richie’s last few offerings tend to suggest that he’s forgotten just as much as the rest of us.
Yet the comparisons made between Richie and Quentin Tarantino at the time Lock, Stock came out were entirely justified. His characters were unpleasant yet likable. His dialogue was stylised and over-the-top, yet witty and engaging. And his sense of cinematic style was unlike anything the British film industry had put out for years – fast-paced, slick and trendy, and about as far away from the kind of lightweight romantic comedies Britain was then most associated with that you could wish for. But at the same time Lock, Stock – unlike its follow-up, Snatch – didn’t seem to be trying too hard. The sense of style was effortless, the feeling of cool permeating almost every frame. Little wonder, then, that Madonna – long-time style icon with her finger constantly on the pulse – was drawn to its director.
But after so many disappointments and so many years of being best known as “Mr Madonna”, can Richie rediscover whatever it was that helped him make Lock, Stock one of the films of the Nineties? Well, we’ll have to wait and see. Although the cast list is known and modestly impressive – with Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson and Thandie Newton heading an array of decent character actors – and the gangster-based plot is decidedly reminiscent of Lock, Stock, more details have been kept under fairly tight wraps. The only thing that is certain is that Richie himself is feeling confident – he’s planning this as the first film in a new trilogy.