Guy Ritchie's cinematic love letter to his wife, Madonna, opened in the United States to the worst reviews of his career yesterday.
Hoping for a change of pace from his distinctive London gangster comedies with a remake of Swept Away, Lina Wertmüller's steamy tale of love and repulsion set on a lonely Mediterranean island, Ritchie found himself unflatteringly likened to the captain of a wrecked ship. Madonna, who stars opposite Adriano Giannini, was panned equally roundly, and the only reason the notices weren't also the worst of her career was her unenviable string of previous turkeys, from Shanghai Surprise to Body of Evidence.
"Swept Away is every bit the cinematic shipwreck you'd imagine it would be," wrote the reviewer for the Associated Press. The New York Times called it "soggy and superfluous". Michael Wilmington, in the Chicago Tribune, could manage only the most backhanded of compliments, saying it was "the kind of bad movie only talented people can make".
Opinions were divided on whether the notion of remaking the Wertmüller film, which came out in 1974, was a good idea that had been badly handled, or whether the very concept was flawed. The story concerns a man and a woman stranded on an island who are alternately revolted and attracted to each other. Manohla Dargis, writing in the Los Angeles Times, argued that the Wertmüller film had been dated from the moment it was released, and looked even more dated now it had been remade. "This rough trade Punch-and-Judy act didn't play well then and it plays worse now," Dargis wrote. "It's puzzling what attracted Madonna to Swept Away, unless she thought that the film could help soften her metal-plate persona."
Do such notices mean the film will sink at the box office? Not necessarily. But the Ritchies might well decide that next time out they'll head back to the East End.