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Friday, 11 October, 2002, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Wash-out for Madonna movie
Amber (Madonna) and Giuseppe (Adriano Giannini)
Madonna plays a spoilt, rich American

Swept Away is what should happen to this film. The romantic comedy is short in duration but also short on laughs, believability and credible acting.

Madonna is wooden and unconvincing.

The film is a remake of Lina Wertmüller's 1974 comedy. It is a tale of love, sex, drugs and extreme wealth coupled with a complex narrative on the shifting power struggle between men and women.

Madonna plays Amber, an arrogant 40-year-old American on a Mediterranean cruise with her wealthy husband and their stuck-up friends.

Jeanne Tripplehorn and Madonna
The friends enjoy themselves before disaster strikes
Much to her disappointment and anger the cruise yacht turns out to be a converted fishing boat - manned by former fishermen.

She is rude and spiteful to them all - especially Giuseppe, the vessel's first mate, played by Adriano Giannini.

He is a complex character with a chiselled body and a chip on his shoulder about rich American tourists.

Nothing is good enough for Amber. To her horror, the boat has no gym and she thinks the food is disgusting.

After a few laborious scenes in which the toffee-nosed tourists sun themselves, play endless games of cards and knock back plenty of booze, Amber's friends go on a trip to explore some caves.

Impatient for them to return, she persuades Giuseppe to take a small boat out to meet them. The motor fails and they drift helplessly. They end up on a sun-kissed desert island.

Guy Ritchie on the set of Swept Away
Not Guy Ritchie's usual choice of material
Bizarrely, thoughts of Titanic meets Castaway come to mind - but the farcical scenario feels more like a Carry On movie.

When it dawns on Giuseppe, a skilled fisherman, that he is shipwrecked with a woman he has come to despise, he wastes no time in seeking revenge.

He orders Amber to become a subservient yes-woman in return for food. She has to wash his clothes and call him master. The movie turns dark for a while - and very politically incorrect - as Amber is beaten and almost raped.

Then, miraculously, she falls in love with Giuseppe. They romp around for a while in their makeshift shack - and play-fight in the sand dunes.

Just as fast as Amber turns from being a battered to a love-struck woman they are rescued. She then faces the dilemma of whether to return to her rich husband or stay with Giuseppe.

Swept Away
The scenery is one of the film's better points
The final few scenes are among the best, with Amber tormented by the impossible situation she finds herself in. But the suspense is fleeting and little compensation for the painstaking journey which it took to get there.

It is somewhat bewildering that Guy Ritchie, best known for crime thrillers like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, chose to remake this movie.

It has been widely reported that the budget was small and the filming schedule tight.

The cinematography is breathtaking - thanks to the gift of a Mediterranean location - but the acting in too many scenes simply falls flat.

When, at one point, Giuseppe throws Amber overboard, the sight of what looks like a stunt dummy descending into the waves is laughable.

If Swept Away is supposed to be a movie designed to challenge our understanding of how men and women relate to each other under pressure, it fails.

Many will rile at the demeaning nature of the abuse suffered by Amber.

And as a comedy, it succeeds because it makes you laugh - but in all the wrong places.

At a packed preview screening in Los Angeles only two people walked out half way through the film. Only one person applauded at the end.

Swept Away opens in the US on Friday 11 October.

See also:

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