Guy Ritchie is obviously a strong adherent of the saying `if it ain't broke don't fix it', as this 2008 film is essentially another remake of his smash hit `Lock Stock and two Smoking Barrels', with which he made his name. Sticking rigidly to the formula of loveable rogues in London getting in to debt with a major local crime figure, and having to pull off some dodgy shenanigans to get the money to clear the debt, whilst in the background there is a hunt for some valuable object (shotguns in lock stock, a diamond in Snatch, a painting here) which served him so well in `Lock Stock' and `Snatch', he again weaves another tale of black humour and violence. Coming after the abysmal `Swept Away' and the disappointing `Revolver', it was a wise choice to return to the formula, and a halfway decent film results.
With a great cast to work with, including Tom Wilkinson who plays the viscous crime boss with just the right elements of brutality and inherent weakness, Mark Strong who makes and effective narrating voice and chief heavy, Gerard Butler and Idris Elba as the loveable rogues and a very hot Thandie Newton, some of the old Ritchie magic is back on display, and the big set pieces manage to impress. But the whole thing is let down by a feeling of having seen it before. Too many of the characters and too much of the plot are lifted directly form his previous films, and though this is reasonably entertaining it is starting to get a bit stale. It's a bit flat and never really catches fire (I wonder if a viewer seeing this without seeing Ritchies previous works would agree?) and there is often a feeling of going through the motions. So in all only 3 stars. Could have been a lot worse (and indeed, Ritchie has made a lot worse), but it isn't as good as `Snatch' or the Sherlock Holmes films.