Polished crooks shine in Guy Ritchie's 'RocknRolla'

Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: October 10, 2008 | Publication: amNewYork | Author: Mina Hochberg
Publication/Article Link:http://www.amny.com/entertainment/am-rock1010,0,216133.story

In " RocknRolla," director Guy Ritchie masters the art of making thugs funny. Not by rendering them dumb as rocks, but by giving them the golden, ironic touch of class and highbrow tastes.

At the center of the story is a jack-of-all-illegal-trades shyster named Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson), who deals largely in real estate -- namely bribing a local politician to grandfather in stadiums and buildings, pocketing millions from developers.

Cole is the consummate old-school, two-timing crook, wheeling and dealing with friends and enemies alike, helping them and backstabbing them at the same time. He's a slick operator but lacks a code. He's also a cranky, mean SOB.

Cole is the looming figure in this story, along with his trusting right-hand man, Archie (Mark Strong), who narrates the film. But he's embroiled in a muddle of entwined subplots featuring an epic cast of London tough guys. There's One Two ( Gerard Butler) and Mumbles (Idris Elba of Stringer "The Wire" Bell fame), a couple of nice-guy, small-time thugs with aspirations to get in on the commercial real estate boom.

Then there's Handsome Bob and Cookie, cohorts in their crew, and Stella ( Thandie Newton), a jaded accountant who gets her thrills by giving up high-profile clients to thieves and robbers. That's just a small sample of the gangsters you get to see in action, and I haven't even gone into the rock star, the Russians and the missing painting.

The story is hard to follow, with its ever-expanding cast of characters and their rapidfire dialogue. But by the second half of the movie, you can piece together all the subplots and etch a bigger picture.

And to Ritchie's credit, even when the film is discombobulating, the pitch-perfect dialogue will make you laugh with its intonations of thug camaraderie -- surprisingly, there's probably more heart in this film then there is guns and violence, which is a nice change of pace for Ritchie.