Guy Ritchie rocks back with RocknRolla (MA)
Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: October 29, 2008 | Publication: Courier Mail | Author: Editor
GUY Ritchie puts the failure of Swept Away and Revolver behind him and returns to what he does best with his London gangland action-comedy RocknRolla.
It is closer to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch than his later films.
Ritchie's take, emphasised by shotgun-style editing, short, sharp scenes, freeze frames, voiceovers and interweaving storyline, is a British version of America's revived Ocean's Eleven and other caper films, with an ensemble international cast delivering this Made in Britain package of sex, thugs and rock 'n' roll.
Planned as the first of a trilogy set in London's underbelly, Ritchie's script, mixing humour with violent scenes, some involving macabre torture, is played to the hilt by his talented cast in a shimmering London, photographed by David Higgs.
There are well-known faces and newcomers, with Toby Kebbell (Ian Curtis's manager in Control) as Johnny Quid, a junkie rock star and the RocknRolla of the film's title, delivering the sort of star-making performance that Jason Statham gave in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels a decade ago.
The anchor to the involved plot is veteran mobster Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson, usually playing more refined characters), and what happens when he becomes involved with Russian heavies, including billionaire Uri Obomavich (Karel Roden), trying to muscle into London's booming property market.
Cole is trying to stitch up a deal involving millions of pounds, and Uri thoughtfully lends him his "lucky" Old Master painting to enjoy while the shady deal is being finalised.
This turns out to be a giant headache for Lenny, who wakes up one morning and finds the Russian's painting has been stolen from his wall.
Lenny's right-hand man Archy (Mark Strong) is assigned to recover it, and quickly.
It won't take Andy long to discover that Lenny's stepson, Johnny, who has old scores to settle, might have information.
Throw a devious sexy accountant (Thandie Newton) and small-time crooks such as One Two (Gerard Butler) and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy) into the mix, and mayhem ensues.
There are some stand-out scenes, including a funny botched-robbery sequence, but Ritchie's gold-medal moment involves two of the London crooks, including One Two, trying to shake off a pair of determined Russian heavies who refuse to stay down.
Americans Jeremy Piven (HBO's Entourage) and Chris Bridges (House Bunny, also known as Ludacris) add to the underworld colour as Johnny's managers trying to encourage him to be "born again".
There are gay gags that threaten to become repetitive banter between One Two and Handsome Bob, but they fit into the brash dialogue and the snappy exchanges that Ritchie has written for his London mayhem.
Not all the loose ends are tied up, but that's deliberate, no doubt, for the next instalment signalled at the ending of this fast-moving fun.
The sure sign that RocknRolla works is the disappointment felt when it's over, with matters left hanging, no doubt to be continued in the next instalment.