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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Swept Away
Swept Away
Columbia/Tri-Star // R // February 11, 2003
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted February 3, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
There's a theory floating around my house about last year's unbelievably bad Swept Away. It goes something like this: Self-satisfied Guy Ritchie, hot, young director of such shallow but stylish films as Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels finds himself the target of the affections of noted Anglophile Madonna, badly in need of some career edge. Not knowing any better (and temporarily forgetting Madonna's history of mind-manipulation), Ritchie enters into something of a relationship. Soon Madonna is pregnant, which leads to a wedding, which is soon followed by the revelation that Madonna is not actually pregnant. The oldest trick in the book, performed by a master trickster. Score one for Madonna! Now she can star in cool, hip, edgy films instead of dreck like The Next Best Thing.

What Madonna doesn't count on, however, is Ritchie's own evil genius. Apparently willing to scuttle his own career, Ritchie writes and directs a film in which he does everything possible to make his own wife look as ugly, rotten and despicable as possible. Not in a glamorous, sinister Cruella DeVille sort of way, mind you, but in an unflattering, sour way. He manages to make the film both mind-numbingly predictable and seemingly random. He fills the film with jokes but injects zero humor. He basically throws the game.

Ritchie probably hoped that the career suicide that is Swept Away would only be temporary. While his ability to come back from Ed Wood oblivion remains to be seen, there is no doubt that Swept Away is one of the most putrid, wrong-headed, disastrous pieces of celluloid ever to foul up a projector. And keep in mind that I'm the kind of guy who loves Mariah Carey's Glitter for its schlock appeal. There is none of the playful, embarrassing unintentional comedy of films like Road House or Staying Alive in Swept Away, even though I was hoping that there would be. Madonna is far too self-important to allow for humor, either intended or not. The moment the movie starts, with a typical Ritchie montage of wealth and luxury, it's clear that the film has to soul. The story may be about a rich woman and a poor guy butting heads on their way to finding love, but the ultra-cliche plot should still allow for some fun along the road. Instead we get Madonna and the equally terrible Adriano Giannini mugging, hollering, feuding and, finally, discovering their true feelings. Gag me with a spoon!

While it's easy to believe Madonna as the horrible spoiled brat she starts the movie playing, her transformation is tougher to swallow. By the time she's kissing a fish (still wriggling on a spear, by the way, possibly as a symbol for the few audience members still squirming in their seats) her character has veered so far off from the land of believability that there's nothing to do but shake your head.

If you have any inkling you might enjoy Swept Away, your decision is your own. Don't say I didn't warn you. If the film genuinely appeals to you then there's little I can say. But if you're like me and enjoy seeing a pop goddess in a campy queen-fest, then drop the film immediately. It will only serve to depress you. My only hope is that somehow Madonna and Ritchie really do get stranded on a deserted island together and never make another film again.

VIDEO:
The picture is crisp and fine, although Ritchie's sun-bleached cinematography has a too-bright look that often appears washed out on a television screen. It is anamorphic widescreen.

AUDIO:
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is fine, if unexciting. There is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 French track that sounds fine. English and French subtitles are available.

EXTRAS:
Some of the special features help illustrate why the movie is so bad. First off, the commentary (by Ritchie and producer Matthew Vaughn) contains numerous moments where the writer/director expresses his disdain for the original film. Then why remake it? Seems a doomed choice.

The incredibly obnoxious behind-the-scenes special is as bad as the movie, with Ritchie and Madonna "interviewing" each other. I'm afraid to say that this piece only serves to further our theory since Ritchie's hatred of his wife seems to bubble very close to the surface and Madonna's patronizing behavior (and weird faux-British mannerisms) grate on the viewer's nerves.

An endless stream of deleted scenes does nothing to improve the film although Ritchie's commentary contains observations such as the reason he cut an early scene: "It was fucking boring." Then how did he decide what to keep?

Filmographies and trailers for Swept Away, Maid in Manhattan, Punch-Drunk Love and Snatch are also available.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
In case you couldn't tell, I really hated this movie. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemies. Swept Away is too bad even for Mystery Science Theater 3000, since it's doubtful Tom Servo, Crow and company could find anything to say other than "This really stinks." If you want to suck the life out of an evening then go ahead and watch Swept Away. Otherwise steer clear.

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