After a millennium of mystical and/or pious Arthurian lore, someone -- could it have been Guy Ritchie? -- determined that the once and future king needed the Guy Ritchie treatment. But then someone -- could it have been the selfsame Ritchie? -- concluded that snarky attitude wasn't enough. And so we have King Arthur: Legend of The Sword an intermittently amusing mashup of frisky medieval-gangsta flick and ponderous sub-Tolkien war saga.
In the movie's livelier moments, Arthur (The Lost City of Z's Charlie Hunnam) is a thief in a Londonium that's the spiritual precursor of the London of Ritchie's Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Swaggering, charismatic Arthur was raised in a brothel, and represses his memories of the parents who died when he was young. He now leads a group of merry, Cockney-accented men through an urban equivalent of Sherwood Forest.
If Arthur is something of a beefcake Oliver Twist, his muddy hometown is even shabbier than Dickens' London. And yet this Britain is cosmopolitan enough to have lured Arthur's kung fu instructor (Tom Wu) from China and one of his future associates (Djimon Hounsou) from Africa. Also making a cameo, via cinematic time machine, is global football star David Beckham.
Playfully cross-cut and maniacally chatty, the Londinium sequences employ a jaunty percussive score and lots of Godard-via-Tarantino tricks. There's reverse motion and julienned dialogue, as well as freedom-fighting: Arthur is not simply a lovable rogue, but also a defender of women and a leader of the resistance against the black-clad London SS dispatched by King Vortigern (Jude Law, who was Watson in two Ritchie pillagings of the Sherlock Holmes canon).