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Madonna, Guy Swept Away by criticism

Madonna’s first feature film to be directed by her husband Guy Ritchie has opened in America to universal disdain from critics who dismissed it as a cinematic “shipwreck”.

The Washington Post said Swept Away, in which the 44-year-old pop star plays a rich heiress marooned on a desert island with a sailor she had previously bullied, was “as bad as you’ve imagined”.

The acting is “laughable”, the paper went on, noting that it follows similar disasters with first husband Sean Penn in Shanghai Surprise and former lover Warren Beatty in Dick Tracy.

The New York Daily News gave it an unprecedented zero star rating, describing it as “amateurish”, a “debacle” and a “new career low”, while the New York Times called it “soggy and superfluous” saying the dialogue was “leaden” and the love scenes “mechanical”. It concluded: “There is no credible feeling here, no comedy, no eroticism.”

Ritchie’s direction is also criticised, with many reviewers noting his wife’s unflattering on-screen appearance. “Her overtoned arms are striped with veins and she has back muscles that could cast shadows in afternoon light,” said the Daily News, while the San Francisco Chronicle said she looked like “a middle-aged matron, only meaner”.

The New York Post even questioned whether the entire film was “some sort of an in-joke” between Ritchie and his wife, before concluding: “Not even a life raft can save Madonna’s latest sinker”.

A remake of the 1975 Italian art-house satire Swept Away (by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August), the film tells the story of an arrogant rich American played by Madonna, who makes life miserable for the lowly Italian crew member of the yacht in which she is cruising the Aegean.

When the couple are accidentally stranded, the Communist Italian deckhand, played by Adriano Giannini, forces her to beg for help to survive until they become lovers.

The film had been plagued by rumours even before its release that it was a stinker. Its world premiere at the Cannes Festival in May was cancelled amid reports it had to be extensively re-edited.

Ritchie, 34, has previously been noted for the frugal budgets and big profits of his films. With his partner Matthew Vaughn (Claudia Schiffer’s new husband), he spent £960,000 on Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, a film that made £36 million, plus £25 million from video, DVD and television sales. Snatch, his follow-up with Brad Pitt, was made for £4 million, took £60 million at the box office and £57 million from ancillary rights.

The debacle is the latest in a string of flops which have marked Madonna’s attempt to repeat her musical success in film career.

After originally finding success in Desperately Seeking Susan, Madonna’s next project, Shanghai Surprise, was so unpopular that it forced George Harrison’s Handmade Films into bankruptcy. Her Who’s That Girl' and Body of Evidence also flopped.

In a recent interview promoting her new £10 million film Madonna said she had hoped that it would be the one that would finally gain her respect as an actress.

“It’s really good... from what I’ve seen and the experience of doing it,” she said. “I have a good feeling about this, but I’ve been wrong before.”

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