Knight at the Movies: Rocknrolla...
Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: October 29, 2008 | Publication: The Windy City Times | Author: Richard Knight, Jr.
Two more movies opening this week—Guy Ritchie's Rocknrolla ( pictured ) and Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno—highlight what I hope is a continuing trend in mainstream releases aimed at straight guy audiences: gay characters afforded not just respect, but understanding, sensitivity and, sometimes, a dash of awe by their straight male counterparts.
Writer-director Guy Ritchie returns to what he does best in Rocknrolla, his third film featuring gangsters, violence, flashy editing tricks, a pulsing soundtrack and nearly indecipherable cockney accents. This time out, he follows a pair of jocular thieves ( 300's Gerard Butler ) who borrow money from a big-time loan shark ( Michael Clayton's Tom Wilkinson ) to fund a real estate deal. But then things go wrong and a complicated plot becomes even more complex when a “lucky” painting gets stolen from a Russian mob boss whose accountant ( a luscious Thandie Newton ) is arranging for the pair to steal from him. The painting, it turns out, has been stolen by a crackhead rock star named Johnny Quid ( Toby Kebbell ) , who is thought by the public to be dead. A major subplot involves an unrequited crush on Butler by one of the other male characters, who then uses his gay sexuality to get information out of the accountant's gay husband, a fey lawyer with S&M tendencies.
There's a lot more to Ritchie's typical pretzel-twisted plot, which is sometimes so convoluted that not even the narration of Lenny's top henchman ( Mark Strong ) can sort it out—but the characters are all having such violent fun that the audience gets swept along for the ride. The scene in which Butler's male comrade comes out to him is hilarious and touching. Butler's character uses every gay slur in the playbook on hearing the news, but it's feigned disgust, and Ritchie cuts away from the scene just at the point that it seems that something is about to happen between the two. What actually happened then becomes a running joke throughout the movie ( and is hilariously revealed over the credits ) .
Then there's Quid, who is sometimes referred to as Johnny Queer by the others—and it's never quite clear whether Johnny Q, with his six-pack abs and low-rider jeans, is really one of Our Own. In fact, this tough-guy movie is so littered with gay characters and good-natured gay jokes that sexual orientation becomes a non-issue. The straight men splutter, hurl invectives and claim they'd rather be dead than gay, but when it comes down to it no one really seems to care all that much. With such an abundance of gay material and a battery of lingering close-ups of a multiple of spectacular male torsos ( Johnny Q, a persistent Russian hit man, etc. ) , Richie's soon-to-be ex-brother-in-law Christopher Ciccone's claim that he's a homophobe seems suspect. Homophobe or not, this is the movie of a man who certainly appreciates the male form.
Rocknrolla, shot in murky shakes of blue, black and gray, is a lot more fun than its color scheme would suggest ,and a sequel, announced at the credits, is certainly tantalizing. Maybe next time out, Handsome Bob and Johnny Q will find one another and have a go.