Movie review: RocknRolla -- 3 out of 5 stars

Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: October 29, 2008 | Publication: Orlando Sentinel | Author: Roger Moore
Publication/Article Link:http://www.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment/movies/orl-movie-review-rocknrolla,0,4562840.story

How odd is it that it takes Guy Ritchie an hour of screen time to remember how to be Guy Ritchie for his latest gangland-slangland romp, RocknRolla?

Pretty bloody odd.

The "British Tarantino" has whipped in all the usual Ritchie riches -- London gangsters, ruthless foreigners, dishonor among thieves and one very pricey plot device. But for the first hour, RocknRolla -- which is about Russian mobsters-turned-developers making payoffs to a London mob boss, an accountant arranging robberies, a missing painting, a junkie rocker who has faked his death and the happy-go-goofy villains trapped in the middle of it all -- is painfully slow of foot. Ritchie has tossed so much into the salad that every one of his patented monologues -- the old-school mob boss (Tom Wilkinson) gives a dissertation on American crayfish, a beefy street hoodlum with a taste for British costume films discusses his appreciation for the painter Whistler -- stops the movie cold.

Ritchie dawdles that first hour setting the table for his heroes, "The Wild Bunch" (Gerard Butler and Idris Elba), putting them in jeopardy, but not really. Russians are tricked, a bored accountant (Thandie Newton in bombshell mode) double crosses, the missing painting turns up with the missing (and supposedly dead) rocker (Toby Kebbell), threats are made, slang is slung. But even if we're "in there like swim wear," the picture cannot get up to speed. Even the motor-mouthed Jeremy Piven, playing a music promoter (opposite Ludacris) seems to be asleep.

Butler is charming and tough (his character, "One-two," is homophobic and embarrassed by it); Wilkinson devours the scenery with relish; Newton vamps inscrutably.

The charismatic narrator (Mark Strong), a mob lieutenant, can't keep the stories straight or pick up the tempo. It's as if Ritchie has shoved every cool character he couldn't fit into a movie during the Madonna years into one cluttered film.

But then, finally, Ritchie (Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) juggles all the balls into the air and the picture takes flight. Competing mobs collide, a heist goes wrong, "Virginia killing sticks" are smoked, murderers murder and RocknRolla reminds us of how cool Ritchie was before Madonna doused his fire. Pity he makes us wait so long.