Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: September 15, 2008 | Publication: Reel Movie News | Author: Jamie Kelwick
Apparently it's going to be another British gangster flick. Not that Ritchie has done one of those before.
If a property deal is done in London, Lenny Cole (Wilkinson) is the man behind it. When a Russian millionaire comes to town with plans to redevelopment a piece of land into a prime real estate, Lenny sees this as his chance to make some real money. The problem is that other, just as scrupulous people also see this as an opportunity. As Lenny brokers the deal with the Russian, the millionaire’s accountant Stella (Newton) sees this as a chance to make herself some money and she turns to local petty criminal One Two (Butler) to get the job done but everything doesn’t go to plan for any of the parties involved and it all comes down to a painting stolen by a dead rock star named Johnny Quid (Kebbell)
Once heralded as one of British brightest new directors, Guy Ritchie’s last two movies critical and commercial disasters but can ‘RockNRolla’ change all this?
Exploding onto the scene in 1998 with ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’, Guy Ritchie reinvigorated the British crime-flick and made ex-professional footballer Vinnie Jones a movie star. He followed this up in 2000 with ‘Snatch’, attracting Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt into his story of the London underworld filled with cheeky cockneys, out to make a quick pound wherever they can find it. With his marriage to Madonna filling the tabloids and his long term friend and producer Matthew Vaughn, moving on to become a fine director in his own right, Ritchie’s new two movies were complete disasters. ‘Swept Away’ proved again that his superstar wife cannot act and ‘Revolver’ was a self-indulgent, return to the British crime flick but gone was all the comedy and cheekiness that made his first two films so memorable. Fortunately ‘RockNRolla’ is a real return to form.
Returning again to London, ‘RockNRolla’ sees Ritchie bring together a collection of interweaving storylines leading to a dramatic conclusion, with a lot of comedy, swearing and violence along the way. First we have Lenny Cole, played with great gusto by Tom Wilkinson, the man who everyone has to go through to get anything built in the British capital city. He has forged a deal with Russian millionaire Uri, Karel Roden, to transform a derelict part of the city into a prosperous new commercial area and the councillor he has in his pocket, played by Jimi Mistry, will push the planning through, for a price of course. Uri has his beautiful accountant Stella, portrayed by Thandie Newton, release seven million Euros from his accounts to broker the deal and he even gives his lucky painting to Lenny, as a show of faith. What Uri doesn’t realise is that Stella likes the rougher side of the city and hires local gang, the Wild Bunch led by One-Two (Gerard Butler), to steal the money as it heads to Uri to broker his deal. As all of this happens, Lenny Cole himself is also robbed of the painting that Uri had so kindly lent him and the chief suspect is a junkie pop star who has just been announced as dead by the press, Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell).
This, of course, leads to a crescendo of high jinx, comedy and violence, all in the fashion that made Guy Ritchie gain such plaudits in the first place. The story interweaves these plot elements superbly, giving the characters enough screen time to become established and pushing the main story along to a very pleasing and unexpected conclusion. The execution by the cast is also first rate, with Tom Wilkinson revelling in his role and the whole ensemble having fun but giving there all to the project. Toby Kebbell almost steals the show as Johnny Quid, the junkie Lenny is looking for and always-excellent Mark Strong shows why he is becoming such a star as Lenny’s right hand man, Archie. You also have Gerard Butler, who of course the women in the audience will swoon over, showing that he is as actor who is just as comfortable in a low budget, character driven film as he is in a Hollywood blockbuster. Add to this, good turns from Tom Hardy, Jeremy Piven, Jimi Mistry and the beautiful Thandie Newton and you have a cast that revel in the material.
While some may argue that Guy Ritchie cannot make a movie well without it featuring gangsters but after the appalling ‘Revolver’, the writer/director needed to return to something familiar to save his career. This might not be him back to his very best but for Guy Ritchie this is a return to form and one that should bring him back from the brink of oblivion.
Our rating: 4 of 5 stars