This return to form for Guy Ritchie is a cockney banker

Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: August 30, 2008 | Publication: News of the World | Author: Robbie Collin
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CHARMER: Butler's as good as he gets

Verdict: A cockney banker ****

AIN’T life full of crushing disappointments.

Like RocknRolla, for example, the new Guy Ritchie film.

Here I was, looking forward to giving it an almighty shoeing, because, well, it’s the new Guy Ritchie film.

But sadly I can’t. Because it’s pretty damn good. After the ropey as hell Swept Away, and the almost career-endingly bad Revolver, Guy’s gone back to his strengths.

Which you might say is peddling entertaining, nicely-soundtracked, Tarantino-rip-off mockney crime caper shoite.

And RocknRolla is exactly that.

Of course, we’ve seen this all before, in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. And Ritchie is about as stretched here as Fern Britton’s gastric band at a salad bar.

But hey. It’s just nice to see this director doing what he does well again. Even though he’s a tedious, flat cap- wearing, moneyed little bum sausage.

We’re in Lahn-dahn, present day, and underworld kingpin Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) is fixing up a massive property deal for a Russian oligarch called Uri (Karl Roden) who, you might say, is inspired by Roman Abramovich —if by ‘inspired’ you mean ‘ripped off wholesale with barely enough differences to dodge a libel action’.


In charge of the Russian’s finances is a glamorous accountant called Stella (Thandie Newton) who, unfortunately for Uri, is keen to redistribute said finances amongst a bunch of crooks with names like One Two, Mumbles, Tank, Handsome Bob, Cookie, Timmy Walnuts and Anton The ASBO (OK, maybe not the last two).

From here? It gets complicated. Particularly when Lenny’s missing- presumed-dead rock star son Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell) also turns up and nicks Uri’s favourite painting, sending half of London’s underworld after either Johnny, the painting, or Johnny and the painting.

But the important thing is, it’s done with style. Wit. Lashings of the old ultra-violence. And absolutely no smart-a**e references to Kabbalah, existentialism, and the other pretentious guff that wrecked Revolver.

Chief attraction? The rather superb performances by a large and talented cast. Because despite the huge number of main characters—I lost count at 15—there are only a couple (the two pointless record producers played by Entourage’s Jeremy Piven and hip hop muppet Ludacris) we could have done without.

Despite the devastating evidence to the contrary, I quite rate Gerard Butler as an actor.

And as One Two he’s as good as he’s ever been: funny, charming and generally likeable. Thandie Newton does what Thandie Newton does best — she slinks around and pouts like Thandie Newton.

Thandie Newton does what Thandie Newton does best — she slinks around and pouts like Thandie Newton
Tom Wilkinson is an absolute master. Ditto Nonso Anozie, lighting up the screen in a too-small role as Tank, the hardcore gangsta with a soft spot for period drama.

And you’ve got to admire Karl Roden’s stones for ripping off Abramovich so enthusiastically.

Hell, even the bit-parters are strong—I particularly liked the pair of smack-addled wasters who bungle around in the background like a junkie C-3PO and R2D2. But in truth, this is one man’s film and his film alone—Mr Toby Kebbell, who plays Johnny Quid, the RocknRolla of the title.

People talk, too often, about star-making performances. This is a star-making performance.

You want to see a total unknown earn himself a film career in 114 minutes? Cos that’s what the guy does here.

Swaggering around the screen like Pete Doherty with a brain and a personality, he almost steals the entire show from the second he arrives, were it not for the scattering of other great moments such as the two indestructible Russian mobsters and the high-speed sex scene between Gerard and Thandie. But this is all down to Guy’s writing as much as it is the cast.

And it’s backed with some belting tunes from the likes of The Clash, Lou Reed and The Subways, making the tie-in CD a serious contender for soundtrack of the year.

No doubt because Ritchie’s such an easy target, many will wrongly dismiss the film as a stinker.

But the painful truth is, RocknRolla is a more than worthy watch. And, as the first film in a planned trilogy—the sequel gets a plug in the end credits—it shows Ritchie’s career will last at least until his missus is a wrinkled, old duffer, and maybe even beyond next August.

This is the first decent film of what, Bond aside, is not shaping up to be a vintage few months at the cinema.

So savour the good stuff now, people.