You will be swept away with passion…
I can only imagine that moviegoers who actually pay full price to see a Madonna flick are quietly repeating in their heads, "Thank you ma'am, may I have another?" For this reviewer, watching a Madonna movie is the equivalent of having corn dogs crammed into my most cherished body cavity. First we had to endure Who's That Girl? and Desperately Seeking Susan, and while pretty godawful, at least they were innocuous '80s fluff. Then Madonna played Mrs. Peron in the adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage production Evita, because Madonna wanted to prove that she is the consummate "ach-tor." Now comes Miss ex-Sean Penn's latest cinematic opus Swept Away, directed by her newest (and last?) husband, Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch). Would you believe me if I told you this movie bombed almost as hard as Pearl Harbor in 1941? Swept Away has been given new life on DVD care of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. Be afraid, be very afraid.
Facts of the Case
Madonna plays Amber Leighton, a rich, spoiled upper-crust bitch who's on vacation with her husband Tony (Bruce Greenwood, Double Jeopardy) and a few of their socialite friends (including a woefully underused Jeanne Tripplehorn playing a drunk). This group of wealthy snobs spends their time basking in the sun, eating and drinking expensive products, and complaining to the wait staff about the condition of the coffee. Amber especially is a piss-n-moaner, always annoying fisherman Giuseppe Esposito (Adriano Giannini), one of the boat's wait staff. She calls him "pee-pee," constantly complains about the meals, and generally treats him as if he were the lowest lifeform on earth. After taking a dingy out to sea to search for a few of Amber's friends, Amber and Giuseppe are left stranded on a deserted island with only each other to count on for survival. At first, Amber continues her mean and spiteful ways, but it soon becomes clear that class and privilege don't mean squat when you're stuck on an island without any modern amenities like toilet paper or bon-bons. Taking full advantage of this, Giuseppe begins to treat Amber like dirt—slapping her face, forcing her to work for her meals, and degrading her to no end. Even though Amber is treated like trailer trash, she falls in love with Giuseppe and thus begins a whirlwind romance of sex, passion, and crabmeat…
If bad career moves were farts, Swept Away would have wiped the entire nation of China from the face of the earth. It's quite possible that Swept Away is one of the worst remakes in a long history of Hollywood retellings. Everyone involved in this dud deserves to be dropped on a desert island somewhere in the Pacific, without even a volleyball named Wilson to keep them company. I can't seem to decide who deserves the most credit for this travesty—Madonna for her atrocious acting skills, or Guy Ritchie for writing and directing such a jaw-dropping mess.
Swept Away is based on the original film starring Giancarlo Giannini (Hannibal). Though it's not regarded as a classic, it at least scored around a six on the Internet Movie Database's ranking system. In other words, someone out there likes it. Those people will not be happy with Guy Ritchie's revamping. This new version of Swept Away is not only a remake, but also stars Giannini's son Adriano in the role he inhabited back in 1974. Sometimes nepotism is not a good thing. Giannini can't seem to figure out how to play his character—first he's all wacky cutesy goofy, then he's deadly serious. Then he's playful and cute, and next practically a rapist. This is officially one of the most schizophrenic performances ever captured on film.
And there's Madonna. What is there to say that hasn't all ready been said a dozen times over? The woman needs to learn to stick to what she knows, which is not, I repeat, not acting in movies. Madonna's style ranges from heavy emoting to fierce overacting to complete and utter confusion (Madonna: "Guy, I have no idea how to play this scene!" Guy: "Just wing it, love."). And let's just be brutally honest, shall we? She's starting to look her age, and Ritchie's unflattering profiling in this film doesn't help matters. At one point in the story Madonna's character rants about competing for Giuseppe's love against the backdrop of 18 year olds. Hmmm…do I smell a Britney Spears subtext here, or what? You know you've got a real stinker on your hands when the scene you derive the most glee from includes Madonna getting smacked in the noggin' with a live octopus.
Guy Ritchie's script exchanges funny writing for profuse swearing and bitterness. Madonna's character arc is undeniably unbelievable. Nowhere in the history books has someone been able to go from complete and utter wench to soft spoken sweetie in what appears to be around 6.9 seconds, clocked. Even worse is when Amber finally falls for Giuseppe—after he slaps the crap out her and forces her wash his dirty undies, she still finds him desirable enough to bop his brains out on the beach. I realize that the subtext of the film has something to do with role reversal and sexual equality, but it's not really worth talking about since it all gets swallowed up the horror of the performances. The best thing that I can say about Swept Away is that it's only 94 minutes long, and even then it feels like a deadening eternity.
There is a hard and terrible truth Ritchie and Madonna must face: Swept Away is, hands down, one of the worst films of the year. I may never know what cosmic forces brought these two talents together, but I know what will undoubtedly tear them apart: one more film like Swept Away. Proceed with caution.
Swept Away is presented in a fine looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Though Ritchie and Madonna couldn't make a good movie to save their lives, they've certainly produced a nice looking picture. The colors and black levels are all sharp and detailed with only a few inconsistencies marring the image (some lighting troubles, which aren't really worth mentioning). Though this may not be reference quality, fans of the film (did you just hear crickets?) will be happy with the way this image looks.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Much like the video portions of the disc, this sound mix is very suitable with a wide array of directional effects and surrounds sounds popping up. There are also some nice subtle moments that take place on the beach, making this audio mix a pleasing experience—it's just too bad the same can't be said about the film. All aspects of the mix are free and clear of any excessive distortion or hiss. Also included on this disc are English and French subtitles, as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround mix in French.
Well, then. Of all the movies that deserved zilch in the way of extra features, Swept Away takes the cake…and yet Columbia has still given more than enough supplements to satisfy fans and sadomasochists. If you're still reading, you're a glutton for punishment. Here's a rundown of what's been included on this disc:
Commentary Track by Writer/Director Guy Ritchie and Producer Matthew Vaughn: It took balls of steel and an iron sword to match 'em to sit down and record a commentary track for this film. I've gotta give Ritchie and Vaughn credit for actually defending their movie—they do a decent job of trying to explain the production and what prompted them to make the film (and a good deal of discussion about the swearing in the film). Otherwise, this is a so-so commentary with the participants bickering humorously back and forth through the length of the track.
Swept Away Movie Special: This was actually a very entertaining look at the making of the film featuring Madonna and Guy Ritchie shooting witticisms back and forth while asking each other what they liked about working with one another, if they had fun on the set, etcetera. There is a real sense of fun in this feature, which is more than I can say about the movie. If you do come across this disc, this is the feature worth catching—even more so than the actual film.
Deleted Scenes: Sixteen deleted scenes are included with optional commentary by director Ritchie. The movie blew, so don't expect any of these scenes to be diamonds in the rough. Most of them are inconsequential and rather boring. Each deleted scene is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.
Let's just pretend that all parties involved with Swept Away were on some kind of hallucinogenic drug which impaired their collective judgments, and leave it at that. As of last week this film raked in a startling eight Razzie nominations, including Worst Picture, Worst Actor, Worst Director, and Worst Actress. Other nominated films include Britney Spears' musical atrocity Crossroads and the Eddie Murphy stinker The Adventures of Pluto Nash…and I reviewed both of them. I think I need to get out more often.
Columbia has done a far better job on than this disc deserves. Swept Away is an apt title for the film, as that's exactly what happens to the story, characters, dialogue…
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Track by Writer/Director Guy Ritchie and Producer Matthew Vaughn
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