Guy Ritchie has managed all right for someone who could very legitimately be known primarily as “Madonna’s husband.” And, to many, maybe he is. But for fans of films like “Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch,” he’s a director who always packs his flicks with energy, action and style.
His newest film, “Revolver,” actually isn’t so new at all. It opened in England in 2005 to almost unanimously negative reviews. Audiences and critics weren’t game for the intricately plotted (some have said incoherently plotted) Jason Statham vehicle — about a gambling ex-con seeking revenge against the gangster (Ray Liotta) who murdered his sister — that is half philosophy seminar, half con-man flick.
Ritchie was more than happy to defend his film to MTV News, and even weighed in on “Swept Away” and the possibility of working with Madonna again (don’t hold your breath).
MTV: It’s been a long strange trip for “Revolver,” but it’s arrived in the States at last.
Guy Ritchie: I always understood I was embarking on a tricky and rough road when I embarked on this film. I was more or less prepared for a less-than-conventional release.
MTV: Did the extreme negative reaction it received in England surprise you?
Ritchie: I was surprised by the extent of it. It sparked an almost unprecedented negative reaction. I don’t think anyone was prepared for that.
MTV: Do you have thick skin when it comes to criticism?
Ritchie: I suppose it depends on whether you think you’re being fairly criticized or unfairly criticized. And I’m not sure which you should get more emotional about.
MTV: What was the first idea that sparked “Revolver”?
Ritchie: The genesis was that you’re protecting your own fears. You’re protecting your own demons and the liberation of self by finding them and facing them. And your mind is completely conditioned to work in the opposite direction. One has to transcend or surpass one’s own intellect. You’re only fighting yourself. I found that idea tremendously stimulating. You’re at war with yourself, but your mind would never let you know you’re at war with yourself.
MTV: A movie like this must be a bit tougher to script than something like “Snatch.”
Ritchie: The others were much easier. This took years, as opposed to “Snatch,” which took three months. But it’s a movie that I like talking about, and I can’t say that about the other movies. You can sustain interest for about 10 minutes talking about them. They are what they are. This is a conceptual movie, so you can actually talk about it.
MTV: Do you worry about losing an audience with something this heady?
Ritchie: Sure. Look, I just made “RocknRolla,” which is conventional and easy and has a built-in audience. We showed it to 350 people, and they loved it. You show this to 350 people, and they’re not going to all love it. The ones that don’t like it really don’t like it.
MTV: Do you think American audiences are more receptive?
Ritchie: I can already tell they’re more receptive. Here, it’s almost 60/40 in my favor, which is what I anticipated on my optimistic days.
MTV: Why do you think you don’t get a fair shake in the U.K.?
Ritchie: My previous movies were very big in the U.K. They had an investment in who I was and what I stood for. They put me on a pedestal. There was just too much of an investment in the whole thing. Inevitably, someone had to go tumbling. This facilitated that tumble. It gave them what they needed.
MTV: Not to dwell on the negative, but a lot of people really disliked “Swept Away” too.
Ritchie: [He laughs.] They did. Look, it’s a movie that I like. It’s the movie I intended to make. From my point of view, it was a film that couldn’t transcend the external factors. Maybe it would have been wiser had I identified those to begin with. We did what we wanted to do, and we were both happy with what we did.
MTV: When you heard the reactions, did it feel like the critics were watching a different movie?
Ritchie: Yes, it did. I still don’t get what the f— that was all about. I mean it was like the reaction when my wife decided to adopt a starving child . I couldn’t make any sense of it. The child was nearly dead. [His] siblings had died. And she stopped that. How do you get demonized for that?
MTV: Have you two talked about you directing her again?
Ritchie: Life is too short, don’t you think?
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