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Ritchie, Guy (1968-)

Director, Writer

Main image of Ritchie, Guy (1968-)

Guy Stuart Ritchie was born in Hatfield, Hertfordshire on 10 September 1968 and brought up in London. Beginning as a film runner in Wardour Street, Ritchie eventually moved on to make music videos and commercials before writing and directing a short film, The Hard Case (1995), which he used to set up financing for his debut feature, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). Juggling seven separate storylines with great confidence and verve, Ritchie displays a magpie talent, taking inspiration from Peter Collinson's The Italian Job (1969) and the ITV series Minder (1979-94) to tell a fast-moving tale of East End gangsters and gamblers. The film's delight in gangland slang and its sharp eye for fashion and London locations made it an unexpected box-office success. Ritchie served as executive producer on Lock Stock... (2000), a spin-off series of dramas for Channel 4.

Ritchie's follow-up film, Snatch, is more of the same on a bigger budget, but it is let down by a super-abundance of plot and big stars it doesn't know how to handle: Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro are often barely recognisable and frequently unintelligible. Although the style is more assured, tedium soon envelops the film's stodgy gallimaufry of a story involving double and triple crosses among jewel thieves, gypsies, bare-knuckle fighters and Ritchie's usual coterie of comic gangland figures.

After his marriage to Madonna in 2000, Ritchie worked with his new wife on a remake of Swept Away (1974), Lina Wertmüller's tart tale of Marxist and sexual politics. Madonna takes on Mariangela Melato's role of a rich and spoiled woman, on a boating trip, stranded on a Mediterranean island with a deck hand (Andrea Giannini: his father Giancarlo had played the role in the original). Ritchie's version (US, 2002), while faithful in terms of plot and character, strips away Wertmüller's irony and trivialises her dark vision with a musical dream sequence to showcase Madonna's talents. It was withdrawn from release in America after a fortnight and went straight to video in the UK.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was one of the most distinctive and energetic British films of the 1990s; Ritchie's return to the genre with Revolver (UK/France, 2005) has the virtue of setting off the gangster film on a different tangent, though not one eagerly embraced by audiences, critics, or other film-makers.


Chibnall, Steve, 'Travels in Ladland: The British Gangster Film Cycle, 1998-2001', in Robert Murphy (ed.) The British Cinema Book, 2nd edition (London, BFI Publishing, 2001)
Dinning, Mark, 'Diamond Geezers', Empire, Oct. 2000, pp. 82-91
Fortnum, Ian, 'We Are the Boys', Neon, Jan. 1999, pp. 43-52

Sergio Angelini, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

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