Love him or loathe him, British director Guy Ritchie has one of the most distinctive film-making styles in modern contemporary cinema. Be it a feature film, music video or a commercial, his trademarks are instantly recognizable, with the use of high octane action, quick jump cuts, hilarious chase scenes, cool soundtracks, artistic title sequences and, of course, wry British humor.
Even though Ritchie's last two films flopped at the box office, diehard fans - and even some critics - felt that 2015's The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was criminally underrated, whereas 2017's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword still bears some of the director's trademark witty sequences and an outstanding score.
Despite these recent setbacks, many believe that the British auteur still have what it takes to deliver another cinematic hit soon. Disney's upcoming live-action Aladdin for instance, in which fast action, magical sequences, humorous scenes and fun music are expected, might just provide Ritchie with the ideal platform to rediscover his creative touch. However, until Aladdin arrives in May 2019, here's a look back at #GuyRitchie's greatest triumphs in a career spanning 20 years – from his ground-breaking films to acclaimed star-driven commercials (in chronological order):
1. 'Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels' (1998)
Many fans will agree that Ritchie's 1998 feature film debut, Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels - which he wrote and directed - remains his best work to date. Highly original, witty and filled with Cockney accents, the story centers on four friends who, after a botched card game in London, find themselves colliding with drug dealers, gangsters, loan sharks and debt collectors. All for the want of cash, weed and two antique shotguns.
Boasting slick action, side-splitting dialogue and great performances from a relatively unknown cast, the film was an instant success and made movie stars out of Jason Statham, Jason Flemyng and ex-footballer Vinnie Jones. As the winner of the 1999 BAFTA Audience Award and a slew of film critics' awards, critics were quick to proclaim Ritchie as one of the most promising directors of his generation. Nineteen years since it was released, #LockStock, which was made with a budget of just US$1.3 million, remains one of the best British gangster films of all-time.
2. 'Snatch' (2000)
For his $10 million sophomore offering, Ritchie continued to showcase his deftness in making rib-tickling gangster films, albeit now starring an A-List cast. This time, he had the likes of Benicio Del Toro and Dennis Farina playing quirky characters such as Frankie Four Fingers and Cousin Avi. Also, Brad Pitt steals the show as an unintelligible Irish gypsy bare-knuckle boxer named Mickey.
Snatch is filled with many comedic moments and captivating fight scenes. The film focuses on illegal boxing promoter Turkish (Statham) who, in order to keep gangster boss Brick Top (Alan Ford) off his back, convinces Mickey to fight for him, only to find himself embroiled in a drama involving a priceless stolen diamond that have Jewish jewelers, Russian gangsters and dumb amateur robbers clambering for it.
A commercial hit for Ritchie, this was also the film that showcased his now trademark jump-cut sequences such as the iconic Dennis Farina's "I'm coming to London!" scene, where his trip from New York to London is represented by just 6 quick frames. Priceless.
3. The Hire Series: 'Star' (2001)
Yes, Guy Ritchie was married to Madonna and yes, 2002's Swept Away is a film that most Ritchie fans (and Madonna fans for that matter) don't like to bring up. But lest anyone forgets, the couple actually worked on another cinematic production which is the superior Madonna film by Guy Ritchie. Notably, the pair (who divorced in 2008) also made the music video, "What It Feels Like For A Girl" for the singer's Music album.
Star is part of The Hire (2001-2002), the BMW series of eight short films directed by top helmers such as Alejandro González Iñárritu, Ang Lee and Wong Kar-Wai. It follows an arrogant rock star (an uncredited Madonna) who decides that the best way to get away from her fans is to ditch her bodyguards and escape via another vehicle driven by The Driver (Clive Owens).
From Madonna's convincing portrayal as a snarky diva to Owens' subtle but effective expressions, the 10-minute film was dramatic and funny, while commendably displaying all the aspects of the car (it is a BMW commercial after all), all set against Britpop band Blur's 1997 megahit "Song 2".
Amidst the more serious themes by his fellow directors, Ritchie's Star was easily the funniest of the lot. Most significantly, the director was lauded for managing to coerce the comical side of #Madonna, who for once was not afraid to show her "ugly" in a video. The short film won Best Internet Video Premiere at the Video Premiere Awards in 2001.
4. Nike's 'Take It To The Next Level' (2008)
In anticipation of the 2008 European Championships, Nike commissioned an advert that follows a teenager’s rise from youth football to competing at the highest level for a national team. Filmed from the youngster's first person perspective, complete with training pranks, pre-match vomiting, and adoration from women of all shapes and sizes, the 2-minute commercial also features cameo performances from top soccer superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Set to the head-banging rock anthem "Don't Speak (I Came To Make A Bang)" by American rock band Eagles Of Death Metal, Take It To The Next Level is an engrossing, fast-paced commercial that more than delivered a close-up glimpse of how exciting the world of professional soccer can be on and off the field.
Nike's investment in the advert paid off when 50 million unique visitors were registered on its official website over a six-month period. On YouTube, one posting of the commercial drew more than 4.2 million views alone. To this day, this Guy Ritchie masterpiece is perennially listed in every sport and ad media site as one of the top soccer commercials of all time.
5. RocknRolla (2008)
After the mishaps that were Swept Away (2002) and the highly incomprehensible Revolver (2005), Ritchie returned to form with RocknRolla. As with all his gangster movies, the plot of his fifth feature film is never simple, telling the story of a group of small-time criminals led by an ex-con One Two who become entangled in a shady business deal with a Russian billionaire, a caper concerning a stolen painting, and a druggie rock star who was thought to be dead.
RocknRolla bares all the hallmarks of a Guy Ritchie film, fascinating characters with quirky names, cool jump-cut sequences, comical chase scenes and a pulsating soundtrack. The film boasts an outstanding cast including Gerald Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong and Jeremy Piven, including a star turn by then newcomer Toby Kebbell.
The film also showcases a great intro in which the film explains that when it comes to money, sex and drugs, “a real RocknRolla wants the f**king lot” - a line which has become a mantra among Ritchie's most ardent fans - before merging into some incredibly cool, semi-animated opening titles.
Made for $18 million, #RocknRolla turned in a decent profit, but wasn't big enough to convince the studio to make the sequel, which Ritchie told Movieline that he had already written the script for. The director was soon courted by Warner Bros to helm big-budget productions such as Sherlock Holmes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E and King Arthur, but fans are still hoping that Ritchie will eventually make The Real RocknRolla, as promised in the film's last title card.
6. Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Whatever you may think of Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, let's give credit where credit is due. It's this 2009 version of the character that kick-started a renewed interest in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective, from books to museums, as well as the other high-caliber dramatization productions such as BBC's Sherlock and CBS's Elementary.
With Robert Downey Jr. in the titular role and Jude Law as Dr. John Watson, the $90 million film was well-received by critics and movie-goers alike, scoring two Oscar nominations for Best Original Score and Best Art Direction. Most importantly for Ritchie, it was a bona fide blockbuster hit, grossing more than $520 million dollars worldwide. Along with its sequel, 2011's #SherlockHolmes: A Game of Shadows, both films made over $1 billion worldwide.
The great news is, after years of speculation, producer Lionel Wigram has confirmed that Sherlock Holmes 3 is likely to start shooting in 2018, after Downey Jr. completes filming Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel.
Guy Ritchie: A Whole New World Awaits
With his talents and distinctive film-making styles, we have no doubt that Ritchie will be back on form in 2019 with #Aladdin, which stars Will Smith as the Genie, Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine and Marwan Kenzari as Jafar.
As the London-based director informs Vulture.com, he is more concerned about completing a film that he enjoys making rather than how the film eventually performs:
"It is about the journey, not the destination. Now, I’m not saying that I won’t, every now and then, slip into [wondering about] the destination. You’ve just got to keep sobering yourself up and remembering it’s about the journey.... my job is not to release movies. My job is to make movies."
Sherlock Holmes 3 is scheduled to start filming end 2018, while Aladdin is slated for May 24, 2019.
Which is your favorite Guy Ritchie's piece of work? Let me know in the comments.