Here’s a little test for you, to see if you might like this movie. Boris the Blade is said to be unkillable, and he has escaped from some pretty awful things still standing. But he encounters three of the most comically bungling crooks in London, and one, Bullet Tooth Tony, who is not funny at all. They are in a narrow hallway, with the three clowns cowering on their bellies. Tony shoots Boris twice with his Desert Eagle .50, the gun Dirty Harry would be carrying these days instead of his .357 Magnum. Tony turns away to deal with the clowns … and off-screen, Boris says something. Tony turns and pumps another bullet into him, turns away again … and Boris speaks. Tony turns and pumps three bullets into him, turns away … and again Boris speaks. “Fuck!” Tony cries, and takes careful aim, and shoots Boris again. (We don’t see Boris through any of this.) This time Boris is silent. Tony goes to the three clowns, points his gun at the big, fat one, and pulls the trigger. Click. “You lucky bastard!” Tony shouts, frustrated. Then he walks out, leaving the clowns alive.
If you think you could find such a scene funny, you will love this movie, as I did, and you’ll see many more scenes just as twisted. It is extremely violent, but none of the deaths happen right in front of your eyes. The director does not push the killing into your face, and most of it, when it comes, is unexpected and quirky. There is a great ensemble cast, led by Jason Statham, with Dennis Farina and a whole lot of British character actors. But the show is almost stolen by Brad Pitt, as a gypsy with an accent so thick that even other gypsies have a hard time understanding him. Telling you much more would spoil a lot of the fun, but trust me, it never goes where you expect it to go. How often does that happen in the movies these days? It was directed by Guy Ritchie, who made his rep with Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, which I also enjoyed. This one is very much like that, to the point that Roger Ebert complained that it was just a remake. Maybe it was, but it has been long enough since I saw it that it seemed fresh to me.