Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: September 6, 2008 | Publication: eloisepasteur.net | Author: Eloise Pasteur
I have to admit I went to see this more because my normal movie-going companions were going (one of them fancies Gerard Butler something rotten, she was well satisfied!) than because of any feeling of OMG I must go and see it.
It would be tempting to say it's a British gangster movie in the sense of Layer Cake and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but that wouldn't be quite true. Rocknrolla has a fairly continuous stream of black humour lacing through it, and surely it must be deliberate. Most of the criminals are portrayed as "the lads" who just happen to be on the wrong side of the law - but with a little shift most of the movie could have been about soldiers, a rugby club or similar: any very testosterone-heavy environment.
Mix in a little satire about Roman Abramovitch, who is thinly disguised as a tycoon/gangster/football club owner (as far as I know the real Mr. Abramovitch is a tycoon and football club owner only) and some culture clashes between the Russian Mafia and the British gangsters - the latter tend to avoid violence unless pushed to it, the former come loaded for bear from the first time you see them for example and you have another line to keep the movie bouncing along. This culture clash isn't only at the bottom of the tree, the meetings between Uri and Lenny are also fairly wonderfully at cross-purposes.
There's a side-plot about one of the gangsters being gay and the old school and more modern reactions to the news. There's a woman in the mixture, probably inevitably, who somehow manages to stay alluring and essentially unavailable whilst actually driving a lot of the conflict in the story. She does end up tumbling into bed with Gerard Butler, and it's probably the shortest and least erotic love scene in a film ever, letting her somehow maintain that impression of unavailability even when she's smoking her post-coital cigarette.
There is an amazing amount of implicit violence - you only rarely see blows being landed or blood, and in one of the very few fight scenes where you do so the blows being landed it's played more for comic effect because the Russians (who are constantly being hit) just won't stay down. The penultimate scene suddenly raises the explicit violence and the body count and although compared to a lot of action movies it's very mild, it's rather shocking in this movie because it's rather instantly lethal and bloody and unexpected even if you've been led to believe mostly pro-active self-defence.
There is meant to be a follow-up already written. I'm not sure if this will do well enough to make a follow-up inevitable: I think it's rather a British movie, but if there is a follow-up I'd go and see it on the merit of this one - I think because the humour and the lack of explicit violence make the characters rather more sympathetic than you'd expect in a gangster flick.