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'The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare' Review

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April 18, 2024
Hunter Friesen
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With each subsequent entry in his ever-growing filmography, Guy Ritchie seems to make it a mission to make the most Guy Ritchie-esque film yet. The rough edges of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch have been streamlined over the decades, which may be the primary reason why the British writer/director has been one of the most prolific filmmakers since the pandemic, pumping out five feature films since the beginning of 2020. Hell, he already has one in the can titled In the Grey that’s dated for January of next year (reuniting Ritchie with Jake Gyllenhaal, Henry Cavill, and Eiza González), and is in the process of shooting another Apple adventure movie with Natalie Portman and John Krasinski.

Some may cry foul at Ritchie essentially becoming an institution rather than a distinct filmmaker, but his brand of mid-budget action comedies is something that our current movie market sorely lacks. It’s also commendable how mindless they are, like a Michael Bay movie without the migraines. I couldn’t tell you much about the plots of the Sherlock Holmes films, The Gentlemen, or Wrath of Man, but I can recall how entertained I was watching them. The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is no different as it partakes in a giddy showcase of violence. Luckily for you and me, there is no guilt to be felt at the sight of knives slashing throats, bullets shredding torsos, and axes severing limbs; as all these victims are the stormtroopers of the Nazi regime (producers love this cheat code!). 

We first find our heroes, Gus March-Phillips (Henry Cavill) and Anders Lassen (Alan Ritchson), posing as Swedish fishermen as they’re being raided by the most punchable Nazi officer the movie has to offer. But the sight of over a dozen Nazi foot soldiers pointing guns at them doesn’t inspire fear in our burly warriors, rather, it whets their appetite for German blood. Also along for the ride is their demolition expert (Henry Golding), pilot (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), and strategist (Alex Pettyfer). Their mission, apart from general Nazi ass-kicking, is to locate and destroy the ships that supply Germany’s U-boats that sink anything that dares to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The ships are located off the coast of West Africa at Fernando Po, where two undercover agents (Eiza González and Babs Olusanmokun) have already been stationed to set the trap in motion.

Between the yellow-colored subtitles, the Ennio Morricone-esque score by Christopher Benstead, the casting of Til Schweiger as a Nazi, and general vibes, there’s no sense in arguing the heavy influence of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. This imitation even has its own Mike Meyers in the form of Cary Elwes as Brigadier Gubbins 'M', who has Ian Fleming (yes, that Ian Fleming) as his right-hand man. While Tarantino’s suicide mission perpetually hanged in the balance, Ritchie’s feels like watching the ‘95 Chicago Bulls going up against your local junior college. Our heroes’ indestructibility and inability to be deterred is sometimes a feature, allowing for maximum carnage and the clichés that come with missions going wrong. But there’s also a lack of tension, leaving little to the imagination.

Not every joke lands (or was even that good in the first place), and almost all of the characters are pretty one-note. Cavill and Ritchson let their frames do most of the talking, and it’s certainly a sight to behold. Fans of Cavill’s M:I - Fallout arm reload and Prime Video’s Reacher are certainly getting more than what they asked for here. I won’t complain if we just keep getting more of these good-but-not-great actioners from Ritchie for the next half-decade or so.

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