Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: September 4, 2008 | Publication: Basingstoke Gazette | Author: Joanne Mace
IT'S great to have two new films in one week, both of which are in the unusual position of being directed by a Brit and starring a brilliant cast of Brits, too.
But The Duchess and Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla are very different kettle of fish. For the latter, set your feelings about the director (or his wife, for that matter)aside and simply enjoy what's a gripping yarn about gangsters and crims on the make in the London.
It's a story featuring a big cast of varied characters, their coming and going, ducking and diving, and what not. There's One Two (Gerard Butler), Mumbles (The Wire's Idris Elba) and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy), who are tipped off by a Russian billionaire's accountant, Stella (Thandie Newton), that they'll easily be able to steal some cash.
She gets a cut of the deal, and her boss, the Roman Abramovich-esque Uri (Karel Roden), knows nothing. He's more worried about his favourite painting, an artwork (which we never see) which he has loaned to head honcho Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) as part of another exchange.
Lenny's got a finger in many pies, aided and abetted by his chief negotiator Archibald (Mark Strong), and his suited gang of thugs. He's also the stepfather of a possibly deceased junkie rock star (Toby Kebbell), who comes to play his own part in proceedings.
This plot summary might make it all sound rather confusing, but, rest assured, RocknRolla is easy to follow, building slowly and steadily towards a really gripping climax which teases us with the mention of the sequel - a second part of a trilogy, apparently, which hasn't even been finally written yet.
If you're not a fan of the genre, you may not be converted, but Ritchie is an undeniably stylish filmmaker. RocknRolla may be a little derivative, but scenes where loud music plays whilst groovy things happen in slo-mo can hit the mark sometimes, and this is one of those times.
It helps when one of your actors is on fire, devouring the screen every time he appears, and that's just what Dead Man's Shoes' Toby Kebbell, who lost over a stone and a half for the role, achieves. No review of the film won't mention him, as he's wonderful to watch, funny, dangerous and also completely tragic. He's on the up, make no mistake.
A few comic moments, some of may silence those who accuse Ritchie of homophobia - or may cause them to accuse him more loudly - really sweep things along. There's a lovely moment where One Two experiences a few problems with a stolen car, and another one when a chase scene focuses on the fact that those involved are running out of puff.
In amongst the loud, proud, sex-drugs-and-violence of the plot, Ritchie still manages to create some urban magic. Watch for Kebbell's poetic analysis of a cigarette packet, as he simultaneously tinkles the ivories in the background.