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Guy Ritchie
Madonna, Adriano Giannini, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Michael Beattie, Elizabeth Banks
Writing Credits:
Lina Wertmuller, Guy Ritchie

Rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround
English, French

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $24.95
Release Date: 2/11/2003

• Audio Commentary with Director Guy Ritchie and Producer Matthew Vaughn
Swept Away Movie Special
• 16 Deleted Scenes with Filmmaker’s Commentary
• Filmographies
• Trailers

Score soundtrack

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Swept Away (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 10, 2003)

With every passing year, it becomes tougher to support Madonna in her quest to succeed as an actress. Once upon a time, I could sort of buy the concept, as she did decently in flicks such as Desperately Seeking Susan and A League of Their Own. However, Maddy’s many failures far outweigh her smattering of successes, and she seems to get worse as a thespian with every new flick.

Add another one to the pile. 2002’s Swept Away pairs Madonna with her director husband Guy Ritchie. Previous well-regarded via films like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Swept Away might single-handedly obliterate his rep as a hip filmmaker. A remake of a 1974 Lina Wertmuller flick, Ritchie’s Swept Away shows a Mediterranean cruise from Greece to Italy that involves three exceedingly rich American couples. Primary among these are Anthony (Bruce Greenwood) and Amber (Madonna). She defines the stereotype of a mean-spirited spoiled wealthy woman, and she abuses everyone around her.

However, Amber reserves particular malice for Giuseppe (Adriano Giannini). Commonly called “Peppe”, he’s a fisherman who needs to work on the boat because chemicals ruined his industry. Amber and Peppe hate each other, though some obvious physical attraction exists between them. They butt heads frequently during the cruise.

When the others go to some islands and Amber misses this, she demands that Peppe take her despite his warnings. They go but the engine dies along the way, and this sets them adrift. Eventually they end up on land, but this turns out to be a deserted island. They need to survive but they go their separate ways because Peppe feels no desire to help Amber. He becomes MacGyver while she struggles, and he eventually agrees to assist her if she’ll serve him like a slave.

During the second act, we watch his abuse and her reaction to it. Though he makes her call him “master” and he physically assaults her, Amber seems to dig this, and the two fall in love. The film’s final act examines what happens to the couple when they return to civilization.

Normally I wouldn’t provide so much plot information, as I prefer to avoid spoilers for those who’ve not seen the movie. Since Swept Away earned less than $600,000 at the box office, that category includes pretty much everybody. However, I felt it was necessary to expand my story discussion into the third act because it illustrates what a mess Swept Away is.

With any discussion of Swept Away, we don’t examine the question “is it bad?” The issue becomes “is it as bad as they say?” Honestly, no, it isn’t. The movie actually manages a giggle or two at times, and some of the imagery during the third act seems lovely and moving.

However, Swept Away fails for a number of reasons, most of which relate to either its lead actors or its second act. The former issue mostly affects the first act. Really, the film’s first and third acts have nothing inherently wrong with them, and they could have worked well. Unfortunately, the performers badly mar the piece.

As I noted at the start, I do adore Madonna as a musical performer, but she may well be the least natural actor in the history of cinema. With her affected snarl and grimace, early Amber never remotely resembles a human being, and Maddy can’t deliver a line with any semblance of believability. Perhaps because the role requires a more toned-down performance as the film progresses, she seems superior during the last act, but she still comes across as wooden and forced. Only when we see her do a fantasy musical number does she come to life and remind us why she remains a star after 20 years.

While Giannini seems stronger than Maddy, he still doesn’t do much with his role. He appears amateurish and awkward, and he lacks the natural charm and charisma to make us like Peppe. That factor strongly mars the second act, when we really need to feel affection toward Peppe.

Since we don’t, the material that would remain in questionable taste becomes borderline sadistic. Peppe consistently humiliates Amber as he degrades her, slaps her, kicks her, and almost rapes her. In a move that will make Gloria Steinem kill herself just so she can spin in her grave, Amber likes this treatment and only becomes a recognizable human being after Peppe beats the snarl out of her.

Admittedly, before they did a Gilligan and got stuck on the island, Amber presented herself as a horrible person who needed to be taken down a few pegs and taught some lessons. However, physical and verbal abuse don’t seem like the best methods to do this, and the film seems genuinely distasteful during the second act. The fact that we’re led to believe that all an uppity woman needs is a little slapping and kicking and she’ll take her appropriate place makes these sequences all the more problematic.

This also makes Swept Away one of the more disjointed flicks I’ve seen. It goes from the broad comedy of the first act to the cruel sadism of the second to the sweeping love story of the third. Surprisingly, the last act probably works the best. Given Ritchie’s prior flicks, I didn’t expect him to pull off romance at all, but he makes the final section of the film seem reasonably well executed. The film’s unexpectedly downbeat finale comes across as almost moving.

However, the prior two acts undermine any success in the third. Few will care if Peppe and Amber end up together, as we already see them as unpleasant characters. With a less cartoonish first act and a less sadistic second along with some good actors in the lead, Swept Away might have succeeded as a romantic comedy. As it stands, the movie doesn’t quite fall to the “train wreck” depths many believe, but Swept Away remains a bizarre failure nonetheless.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B / Bonus B+

Swept Away appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the picture showed a few small concerns but it generally seemed satisfying.

Sharpness looked positive. The movie always presented a crisp and detailed image. I noticed no issues related to softness or fuzziness during this distinct piece. Jagged edges and moiré effects also caused no concerns, but I noticed a little light edge enhancement at times. As for source flaws, some grain cropped up in low-light situations, but otherwise the movie looked clean and accurate.

Swept Away seemed overly bright at times, but I felt these issues related to the original cinematography. Nonetheless, the movie appeared a bit washed-out at times. Black levels still looked deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not excessively dense. Colors came across as a little subdued due to the contrast, but they generally were acceptably bright and vivid. I expected them to be somewhat more eye-popping given the vibrant settings, but the colors nonetheless seemed distinct and reasonably lively. Nothing about Swept Away appeared stellar, but it presented a positive image nonetheless.

Given the nature of the film, Swept Away didn’t offer a terribly lively soundfield, but its Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack worked fine for the material. The mix provided a decent sense of general atmosphere although it remained subdued for the most part. The music showed fine stereo imaging and effects were appropriately placed within the spectrum. Elements meshed nicely and created a good sense of ambience for the ocean setting. At times the track became more active, such as during a storm at sea; during those occasions, the surrounds kicked in pretty well. Nonetheless, the mix remained pretty low-key for the most part.

Audio quality mostly appeared solid. Speech seemed somewhat thin at times, but the dialogue came across as acceptably natural and distinct, and I noticed no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded nicely clean and vibrant, as the score showed positive dynamics. Effects also came across as accurate and well defined. They showed no issues related to distortion and demonstrated reasonable bass response. Ultimately, the audio of Swept Away seemed fine but offered nothing special.

Although Swept Away totally tanked at the box office, it receives pretty solid treatment in regard to its supplements. We start with an audio commentary from writer/director Guy Ritchie and producer Matthew Vaughn, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. Though not a classic, the commentary generally offers an amusing and stimulating piece. Ritchie dominates, and he occasionally gives Vaughn a hard time because the producer doesn’t say a lot. Actually, Vaughn chats with reasonable frequency, and the pair exhibit a fun chemistry as they razz each other. Ritchie taunts Vaughn more than the other way around, though, and this gets amusing, especially when the director incessantly taunts the producer to sing along with some of the movie’s songs.

As for actual information, the pair go into issues such as locations, sets, changes from the original movie, and working with the actors. Ritchie occasionally makes remarks that relate to “the wife”, but unfortunately, we don’t get much insight into their relationship. Nonetheless, Swept Away provides a lively and entertaining commentary that merits a listen whether or not you actually liked the movie itself.

In the same vein, the Swept Away Movie Special also offered a pretty fun experience. The 19-minute and 57-second program mixes movie clips, behind the scenes shots and an odd interview between Madonna and Ritchie. The whole thing takes on a rather tongue-in-cheek tone and doesn’t provide much real information about the making of the film, but it seems fun nonetheless. The interview bits are interesting to see, and the footage from the set appears pretty cool. We get some pretty “uncensored” moments of tantrums and arguments and disarray; this isn’t the standard “everybody loves each other” promo piece, as it’ll probably make you more strongly believe everyone involved hated each other. Compelling and amusing, the “Movie Special” deserves a look.

Next we find 16 deleted scenes. These run between 21 seconds and 102 seconds for a total of 14 minutes and 13 seconds of footage. If you don’t like the movie, you won’t like these clips, as they fit in with the rest of the flick; mostly they just expand upon situations from the final piece. These can be viewed with or without commentary from Ritchie and Vaughn. They provide very little information about the scenes and only occasionally relate why the snippets didn’t make the cut; Ritchie might simply say “it’s boring” and leave it at that. However, since they continue to be somewhat amusing, fans of the movie might enjoy their sporadic comments.

A few basic extras round out the DVD. We get filmographies for writer/director Guy Ritchie plus actors Madonna, Adriano Giannini, Bruce Greenwood and Jeanne Tripplehorn. In the trailers domain we find ads for Swept Away, Punch-Drunk Love, Snatch and Maid in Manhattan. All feature anamorphic images with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Interestingly, the trailer for Swept Away alters the film’s topless sunbathing scene to put tops on the women. This seems odd simply because the women in question remained chests down during the movie, so the clothed variation doesn’t actually cover the juicy bits; we never saw them anyway. Strange and pointless!

Hmm... that last sentence also largely applies to Swept Away as a film. While not the abomination against God many make the movie out to be, it certainly can’t be seen as anything other than a failure. The DVD offers fairly good but unexceptional picture and sound along with a pretty solid roster of supplements. If you’re one of the five people who actually liked Swept Away, you should enjoy this well-executed DVD. Otherwise, it’s a rental for those with the morbid curiosity to give it a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5348 Stars Number of Votes: 43
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