October 11, 2002 6:09am EST
When pharmaceuticals baron Tony (Bruce Greenwood) charters a private cruise from Greece to Italy to please his spoiled wife Amber (Madonna) she is not exactly impressed by the converted fishing boat and its lack of modern amenities. She complains constantly and bosses the crew around especially the ship's first mate Guiseppe (Adriano Giannini) at whom she constantly snaps her fingers while hollering commands. But when the motor gives out on the dingy Guiseppe uses to take Amber to explore underwater caves the two find themselves stranded at sea and eventually stuck on a deserted island. The tide turns as Amber with no survival skills whatsoever must now depend on Guiseppe and when the power shifts so do their feelings for one another. Their first few days on the island are funny enough and it's great to see Guiseppe bossing Amber around making her fetch firewood and wash his clothes. But the movie begins to drag when their relationship blossoms and we must endure different montages of them cuddling and playing charades. How the story turns out however is interesting enough.
Madonna has many admirable talents. Unfortunately acting is not one of them. While I understand it is difficult for Madonna to transcend well being Madonna the pop icon doesn't help matters on the big screen. Rather than get into character Madonna tends to mold characters after herself like Abbie in The Next Best Thing with those golden Pre-Raphaelite curls. Here as the spoiled socialite Amber Madonna once again looks and acts like Madonna. (In fact there is a picture of Madonna in recent issue of Us magazine wearing the same outfit--black trousers blue pinstriped shirt--she wears in a scene from Swept Away). And next to Giannini whose mannerisms are genuine and unpretentious Madonna comes across as stiff and unnatural. Believe it or not the film's best interactions come from the captain played by Yorgo Voyagis and his two chefs.
You have to admire director Guy Ritchie for stepping away from his trademark style of direction and diving into a completely different genre. Gone are the freeze frames the slow motion/fast forward action shots and the voiceover narration. Ritchie went from the intricate plots of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch to a simplistic and straightforward adaptation of Lina Wertmuller's 1974 movie except this one is in English and has much less sex and violence. With corny lines like "Run my little vixen run " the film walks too fine a line between being an old-fashioned romance and being just plain absurd. Swept Away also feels as though it is trapped in a time warp. There are references to modern-day luxuries like cell phones but the characters look and act like they are straight out of the '70s from Madonna's Pucci-inspired blouses and scarves to her Jackie O. look-alike shipmate. And while the story of a woman falling in love with a man who beats her into submission may have worked 25 years ago it certainly doesn't fly today.