Movie Review: RocknRolla
Director: Guy Ritchie
Reviewed: 29 June 2010
jamesintexas rating: **1/2
I'm working my way backwards through Guy Ritchie's canon, and first with Sherlock Holmes and now with RocknRolla, I'm starting to get a handle on his aesthetic. Films filled with many creatively-named characters. Some hyperkinetic editing and action scenes. Loads of drinking and drug use. Quick thinking lead characters with quick dialogue. And, some torture, some terrible, terrible deaths. And fun music. To be clear, I liked, did not love Ritchie's RocknRolla, though there are many fun moments and a winning performance from Gerard Butler.
Butler stars as One-Two, a lower-level hood in London with buddy Mumbles (Idris Elba from The Wire), works small muscle jobs in the city under the thumb of local kingpin Lennie Cole (the always great Tom Wilkinson, chewing the scenery and loving his lines) and occasional work from accountant Stella (Thandie Newton). Mark Strong narrates as Archy, Cole's right hand man, providing the colorful backstories and a reliable anchor in the film.
A convoluted caper goes wrong, and a Russian billionaire Uri is out some money he needs to make a land deal go down with Cole. One-Two and Mumbles steal that money with the assistance of Stella, and use that money to pay Cole. A lucky painting is exchanged and goes missing. Money is owed and needed by various characters. Chaos ensues.
The film overflows with characters and story lines, and I think that is one of its weaknesses. There's a thread with a rock star who is possibly dead, possibly hiding, and it weaves in and out of the plot. The action sequences are fun, especially one that involves a low-speed chase between Butler and a titanic Russian heavy. There's some funny back and forth among One-Two and his mates, particularly with one buddy who has one request before going to prison. Wilkinson has a lot of fun, and Ritchie seems overly enthusiastic to showcase all of the layers of the criminal strata in London. At times, this film does seem like a travelogue, but it is fun.
If you're into this kind of film, see it, but don't have any expectations. And for the record, I'd like to see Gerard Butler in this kind of film opposed to flighty romantic-comedies. And seeing Idris Elba aka Stringer Bell with his English accent, looking calm and having fun is refreshing after the intensity of his years on The Wire.