Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: October 30, 2008 | Publication: The Arizona Republic | Author: Bill Goodykoontz
Go with what you know.
Isn't that the artist's mantra? It should be Guy Ritchie's. He's taking a pounding in the British press for RocknRolla, his return to fast-talking Cockney crime films. Too derivative of his good movies (Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), but at least better than his bad ones (Revolver and, most especially, Swept Away, which starred his soon to be ex-wife, Madonna), they say.
Yeah, well. Everybody's got to complain about something. But why complain about this?
RocknRolla, though not the most original movie ever made, is a blast, an adrenaline rush of punked-out rock-and-roll-fueled action and crime.
The film centers on a crooked real-estate deal, as much as it centers on anything. The real point of the story is for British actors to look and sound cool while they're ripping each other off and tearing each other up.
Tom Wilkinson plays Lenny, an old-school crime boss who's getting in business with a Russian billionaire, Uri Obamavich (Karel Roden). Also hanging around are lower-level hoods known as the Wild Bunch - One-Two (Gerard Butler), Mumbles (Idris Elba) and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy) - as well as Obamavich's accountant, Stella (Thandie Newton).
There's more. A junkie rocker, Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell), is presumed dead, but that happens with him every few months. Instead, he's alive, addicted and has stolen a painting that's crucial to the plot, as is his lineage: He's Lenny's stepson. He drags his promoters (Jeremy Piven and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) into the mess, if inadvertently.
The story is narrated here and there by Archie (Mark Strong), Lenny's loyal second in command.
There are plenty of twists and turns, but plot isn't the strength of the film. Adrenaline is.
Ritchie gives the film plenty of stylized touches and quirky scenes, the best of which involves Stella and One-Two talking business at a party while in the middle of a goofy-sexy-cool dance number. Butler is good throughout as the sort of crook who just lowers his head and plods forward.
Wilkinson, as always, is outstanding. His Lenny is a profane hothead who considers himself gentlemanly enough to be offended by terms like "gangster." Kebbell's Johnny is a wasted, hollowed-out shell of a man given to philosophical ramblings. Strong plays Archie as the sane one of the bunch - a relative term in this case but sane nonetheless.
RocknRolla is not deep. Nor does it try to be. Instead, it's more an exercise in full-on fun, best enjoyed with the volume turned way up.