King Arthur: Legend of the Sword might be about the Excalibur legend and in that sense, it’s a classic tale – one that’s been re-told many, many times over the years. Except this version has been directed by Guy Ritchie, he of films such as Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films, all of which have a very individual style that is distinctly Ritchie.
In King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, we get a film that is studded with Guy Ritchie hallmarks. Here are five of the film’s most outstandingly ‘Guy Ritchie’ of all its moments. But be warned, there are SPOILERS ahead so if you haven’t yet seen the film and don’t want plot details revealed, look away now!
1. David Beckham’s Cameo
David Beckham is known for being an ex-professional footballer and global icon. And while he’s appeared a couple of times on screen before this – Beckham previously appeared as a projectionist in Guy Ritchie’s Man From U.N.C.L.E – his role in King Arthur is his most prominent acting role to date.
Ritchie famously launched ex-footballer Vinnie Jones’s acting career when he cast him in a significant role in his first feature, flamboyant British gangster flick Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – perhaps this could be the film that launches Beckham as a serious actor? Or maybe not.
Whatever, Ritchie is bold with his casting, making leftfield choices when it comes to dishing out roles in his films. He has previously cast footballer Sol Campbell in Snatch as well as musicians Goldie (in the same film) and Ludacris in RocknRolla before the Fast & Furious franchise that Ludacris appeared in really exploded.
2. This Familiar Storytelling Device
The device in question comes into play when Arthur is telling a story to Jack, the Blackleg Sergeant, to explain the “heat” that’s on him in relation to an incident involving some Vikings. As he tells the story, it flashes to images of the action as it happened, while Arthur’s narration continues in classic Ritchie style.
Jack asks Arthur to tell him the story about “a girl called Lucy, a Viking called Greybeard and some rebel graffiti dirtying these walls”.
“Are you writing a book?” asks Arthur.
“Tell me every detail,” demands Jack.
“We had a quiet word with a couple of Vikings,” comes Arthur’s response. The shot switches to said quiet word, which is far from quiet.
“I said from the beginning, the very beginning,” says Jack, to which Arthur facetiously says, “I woke up…”.
Ritchie’s penchant for this device rocks shows itself again later, when Arthur meets with the gang – his eventual “knights”, which include Wet Stick, Percival, Rubio, Back Lack, Blue, Sir Bedivere and Goosefat Bill. They discuss how best to take down King Vortigern. When Goosefat suggests they tap up the 12 barons who represent the old families of England for 12,000 warriors, Arthur tells them why this isn’t necessary. As Arthur gives his view of how that request will play out, Ritchie shows us the conversation going down via filmed action.
Variations on this technique crop up in Ritchie films Revolver and Sherlock Holmes.
3. A Guy Ritchie Cameo
Guy Ritchie is forming a habit of casting himself in cameo roles in his films. In the scene described above, you see a glimpse of the director making a truly blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance. He was manning a market stall, if memory serves, and is fairly well disguised.
He’s also popped up in Snatch as a man reading a newspaper, as well as in RocknRolla riding a bicycle.
4. Ear Slice
This gruesome moment is typical of Ritchie’s penchant for such scenes. The director loves a bit of jarring gratuitous violence. In this scene, Back Lack is the victim and his son, Blue, is forced to watch.
Jude Law’s King Vortigern is searching for Arthur and finds a mortally wounded Back Lack slumped against some furniture, alone. He starts pumping him for information. When Blue appears, he pretends to be a cleaning boy with no knowledge of the man – his father – slumped on the floor.
When Vortigern realises he’s lying, he carries through his threat to slice Back Lack’s ear off before slitting his throat in front of the boy. The scene is also notable for the Ritchie-style dialogue. After cutting off Back Lack’s ear, he holds it to his mouth and speaks into it: “I repeat: where’s your friend?” Classic Ritchie.
5. Gangsters with Patter
When Mischief John confronts Arthur towards the end of the film, he gives a classic Ritchie speech that could have come straight from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
He’s been waiting for him to show up, and when he does he says, “’Ello, you took your time getting here. I’m not going to hear the end of this from my wife. It was my turn to cook tonight. I’ve been sent by His Majesty to deliver a message: be at the castle before dark if you want to see the girl and the boy alive.”
Then, he adds without changing beat, “I would love to stay and chat but you do understand the situation between me and my wife. Anything that you do to me will be repaid ten times in kind.”
He follows up with this to Bedivere: “Now, you’re a big man, now let’s see you move.”
Mischief John is just the type of stereotypical East End villain with the menace and threatening way about him that Ritchie loves.
Whatever you think of the film, there’s no denying that Guy Ritchie has stamped his signature all over this take on the legend of King Arthur.
Catch King Arthur: Legend of the Sword when it’s released in the US on May 12 and the UK on May 19.