Review: 'RocknRolla'

Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: October 31, 2008 | Publication: San Antonio Express-News | Author: Larry Ratliff
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There's one thing about British writer-director Guy Ritchie you can count on. His crime thrillers are going to be fast-moving, a little goofy and armed with production gimmicks.

That means those who enjoyed the speeded-up footage and the violence-can-be-a-hoot approach of “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” in 1999 or “Snatch” in 2001 will have ample shoot'em-up fun with “RocknRolla.”

For the record, it's probably safe to assume that Ritchie's romantic-comedy days, aka “Swept Away” starring his estranged wife, Madonna, are finito.

“RocknRolla” hits the screen running and rarely slows down. The gangsters of modern-day London are shooting holes in each other and breaking each other's legs over real estate and a prized painting that figures prominently in the plot.

Old-school mobster Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) runs things, aided by his loyal lieutenant, Archy (Mark Strong).

Times are changing in old London town, though. The Russian mob, led by billionaire Uri Obomavich (Karel Roden) wants a cut of the action.

On a lower level of hoodlum hierarchy, small-time crook One Two (Gerard Butler) and his pal Mumbles (Idris Elba) want in on the action as well. They provide the muscle when a sexy accountant played by Thandie Newton (sans the awful makeup and prosthetics she wore to play Condoleezza Rice in “W.”) wants a cut from both sides of the gangland warpath.

Ritchie offers his fans nothing new here. He does, however, make excellent casting choices. I could be entertained just listening to Wilkinson, a two-time Oscar nominee (“In the Bedroom,” “Michael Clayton”), open the door of his kitchen pantry and read off the labels.

Wilkinson goes bald on this one and chews the scenery voraciously as an aging thug struggling to hold his corrupt kingdom together.

Butler, from Scotland, is a good example of next-generation acting versatility from across the pond. Butler, different in everything I see him in (from “300” to “Nim's Island” and even the cheesy romance “P.S. I Love You”), underplays his character in this one with much success.

It's not likely that “RocknRolla” will be listed among the best films of '08. It has its clever moments, though.

Welcome back, Mr. Ritchie. I missed your work when you were, you know, “Swept Away” into an uncomfortable filmmaking zone.