Amber Leighton (Madonna) is a 40-year-old spoiled, foul-mouthed, pampered, snooty, arrogant prima donna who’s impossible to please. Not even her wealthy husband Tony (Bruce Greenwood), a pharmaceutical kingpin, can make her happy.
When Tony takes Amber and some friends on a private cruise from Greece to Italy, Amber’s her usual bitchy self, particularly with the ship’s first mate Giuseppe Esposito (Adriano Giannini). But when a storm leaves her and Giuseppe shipwrecked on a deserted island, they are forced to deal with each other.
Swept Away, a remake of the 1974 Italian film of the same name starring Oscar-nominated actor Giancarlo Giannini (whose son Adriano plays his role here), is brought to us by writer/director Guy Ritchie and his longtime producer Matthew Vaughn (who’d later go on to direct Layer Cake, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class and Kingsman: The Secret Service). Ritchie’s career kicked off with a bang in 1998 with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and continued strong with 2000’s Snatch starring Jason Statham, Benecio del Toro, Dennis Farina and Brad Pitt.
Then this film happened.
Knowing his distinct style of filmmaking, I have no idea what drew Ritchie to remaking this movie aside from letting his nepotism shine by throwing Madonna, his wife at the time, in front of the camera. I have not seen the original – which some say explores gender, political, and class divides quite well – but after seeing this 2002 version, I can say with full surety that it would take the unlimited power of God Almighty to make the original anywhere near as awful as its remake.
Ritchie’s version is said to be quite faithful to the original, deviating only with an altered ending. By faithful, I’m thinking they mean in regard to just the synopsis, ’cause when it comes to the alleged subtext of the first film, you’ll find more thought-provoking subtext in Keeping Up with the Kardashians than you will here. For a screenwriter known for his witty dialogue, I’d expect political conversations between Madonna and her friends to rise above essentially what might as well be two kids bickering…
“Capitalism is like – uh – bad.”
“Noooo… Socialism is… I don’t like it.”
“Chemicals will like do really bad things to – uh – fish.”
“But I like chemicals.”
“You’re a poophead.”
“I’m telling mom.”
I never imagined the day would come where I would much rather listen wholeheartedly to debates on economics and social issues by the girls from 16 and Pregnant.
None of that matters, though. The shocking lack of style (Unless you count the one montage, followed by another, which is followed by another and – good Lord!! There’s another??!!!!), dialogue you’d expect to find in a shitty Rob Schneider film (sorry for the redundancy there since they’re all shitty), and the thin enough to be invisible supporting characters (played by an embarrassed Bruce Greenwood and Elizabeth Banks in one of her first roles) all come a distant second to Swept Away’s most glaring flaw: 90 minutes of having to put up with Madonna as one of the most excruciatingly unlikeable characters ever.
I say one of the most and not most ’cause I figured I’d leave a little bit room for people like Charles Manson, Pol Pot, Jezebel, Satan, Elizabeth Bathory and Hitler.
Sure, Madonna was fine in A League of Their Own and Shanghai Surprise…
Okay – whoa! Hold on. Who the hell invited that last one into the post?!
Anyway, it doesn’t matter if Amber Leighton is portrayed by Madonna or someone like Kate Winslet or Meryl Streep. The character is so irredeemably hateful she gives easily the strongest argument there is in support of spousal abuse, and there’s no doubt in my mind that even Helen “I am woman, hear me roar” Reddy would be backing some Joey Buttafuoco wannabe to bitch slap the ugliness out of her. Amber’s whining and nagging and bitching and moaning and constantly referring to Pepe as “Pee Pee” (she’s either that much of a condescending bitch or just that stupid… or both) is made doubly irritating by Madonna’s horrendous performance. For a little more perspective, I find these things to be less grating on my senses…
- Nails on a chalkboard
- A Yoko Ono/Bjork collaboration record spun backwards
- Touching the slimiest seaweed with the tip of your toes
- That fucking “Hey There Delilah” song
- Fran Drescher’s voice in slow motion
- Gilbert Gottfried and Joy Behar… making love
- The ill-begotten spawn they conceived during their ghastly procreating session keeping you up all night from its incessant cries
- Any Limp Bizkit album
You really don’t know why, but you wanna justify rippin’ someone’s head off… until you meet her, then there’s no justification needed and the why becomes perfectly clear.
Of course, leave it to Ritchie to have the balls to attempt to turn his wife’s character around, even though her shrill demeanor goes to painstaking lengths to ensure there’s no hope for that from the time she first opens her mouth. There’s no character development nor any honest exchange of dialogue with Pepe, so Amber’s change of heart isn’t genuine, and neither is her romantic relationship with the verbally battered first mate. No amount of unintentionally funny kissing of Pepe’s feet will change that, but it’s nice to see that it’s apparently a hundred times easier and more convenient for these two nimrods to survive on a stranded island than it was for Tom Hanks in Cast Away.
Oh, well… Hanks shared greater chemistry with an inanimate volleyball.
They also made a cuter, and surprisingly more believable, couple.
Also, you’d think that as much berating and crap-taking Pepe’s endured this entire time, he’d be someone we could sympathize for. However, when he turns the tables on Amber once they’re stranded, he too dials it to eleven and turns as equally obnoxious as she is.
Fact is, they can’t get any more unlikeable than they already are even if you slap swastika badges on their clothes and have them parade around the island screaming “Sieg Heil!” and waving the Nazi salute.
Lacking style, substance, subtext, dialogue, heart, depth, passion, humanity, energy, chemistry – hell, I’m sure even the guy that gets the coffee and donuts phoned in their responsibilities – Swept Away is a horrendous black mark on Guy Ritchie’s career that has the stench of a massive, steaming pile of “WTF?!” smeared all over it. Not since Creedence foreplayed the hell out of a naive Brent with an ear of corn in Troll 2 has romance been this cringe-inducing. Needless to say, this shipwreck will have you envying all 1,500 victims the RMS Titanic dragged down to the bottom of the Atlantic.