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The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Updated: 6 days ago

If you told me that Guy Ritchie had been hired to create a prequel to my favorite film of all time, "Inglorious Basterds" and the result was this rip-roaring, explosively violent, hilarious blast, THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE, I'd call it a hell of a follow up.

Ritchie more than makes up for his last misfire, "Argyle", delivering a fast paced, suspenseful and awesome action flick that sounds like "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" and tears through the screen like a Tarantino history redux.

The opening scene whistles with the Ennio Morricone-like score by Chris Benstead (The Gentlemen). All pan flutes, whips and whistles, the Sergio Leone vibes are palpable and absolutely perfect.

Based on a true story, we meet the unorthodox, "Dirty Dozen" team assembled by Winston Churchill (Rory Kinnear from "Skyfall" and "Men") and his chief of staff M (Cary Elwes). The OO7 vibes are intentional, since James Bond author Ian Fleming (Freddie Fox) played an instrumental part in creating Operation Postmaster. Fox smoothly introducing himself as "Fleming, Ian Fleming" is a superb nod to our man with a license to kill.

It's 1942, the darkest days of WWII for London. The mission goal is to take out the Nazi U-Boats blocking American ships from joining the European theater of war. M's first pick to lead the mission is Gus March-Phillips, played by Henry Cavill (Superman, Mission Impossible: Fallout) with a mad, devil-may-care attitude that lights up the screen. He's never been better, totally believable leading a bunch of devoted crazies that love to kill for a cause.

Alan Ritchson (Reacher) is Anders Lassen, a hulking archer that puts Hawkeye to shame, shooting arrows into multiple Nazis at once and beating the hell out of anyone in the way. When he runs out of arrows, he moves like Bruce Lee with a knife, reaching about ten stabs a second against anyone in a Nazi uniform.

Alex Pettyfer plays sailor Geoffrey Appleyard and Eiza Gonzalez is stunning as singer Marjorie Stewart, whose assignment is to seduce the Nazi commander Heinrich, distracting him from his duties guarding the African cove where the U-boats are based. Til Schweiger played Hugo Stiglitz, a Nazi hunter in "Inglorious Basterds" and seems to relish playing the opposite side of the fence this time out, oozing Nazi menace. He's a torturing madman that can't resist Marjorie's charms, but for how long?

Babs Olusanmokun (Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Dune Part Two) is great as Marjorie's partner Heron, who has established his cover as a club owner at the beck and call of the Nazi's, planning a party that will serve as cover for the mission.

Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) rounds out the cast as explosives expert Freddy, whose talents are put on great display throughout.

With Richie's patented quick wit and dialogue firing on all cylinders and a perfect cast executing every word, this is a feast for action fans. The bullets fly as fast as the words and everything hits its target.

Ritchson is a standout in his best role to date. For me, he's a little stiff as Reacher on the Prime series, but he shows comic timing and sense of fun here that shocked me. He and Cavill are hilarious anytime they're on screen. After seeing this, I think you're going to see a lot more of Ritchson as a modern action movie hero, or whatever a 2020's version of Stallone and Schwarzenegger might look like.

It's a fun twist of fate watching Cavill play the real life man that inspired Fleming's creation of James Bond. For the actor who has so long been rumored to be a front runner as the next OO7, it's likely as close as we're going to get to seeing him in the part. At the time of this review (May 2024) Aaron Taylor-Johnson appears to have all but locked up the role of Bond, James Bond.

Loaded with fast paced action, globe hopping adventure and danger, MINISTRY plays like an homage to "Where Eagles Dare" and "The Guns of Navarone", poured through a violent 1970's filter. In one action scene, Benstead pulls in music from Lalo Schifrin's score for "Dirty Harry", instantly elevating the cool factor x10. Like the rest of the film, it's sly, smart fun.

At one point, Lassen shouts "I'm not leaving until I have a barrel full of Nazi hearts."

It's a rallying cry he lives up to in graphic fashion.

As Brad Pitt's Lt. Aldo Raine said in "Basterds", "We are in the killin' Nazi business. And cousin, business is a-boomin'."

Ritchie has opened the Nazi killin' season back up, and delivered one of his best films in decades. Sensitive viewers run and hide, Ritchie doesn't have time for your bullshit. He's got a hilarious, taut adventure to tell.

THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE battles its way to a bloody excellent A.




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