'RocknRolla': Mobbed Up

Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: October 8, 2008 | Publication: mtv.com | Author: Kurt Loder
Publication/Article Link:http://www.mtv.com/movies/news/articles/1596509/story.jhtml

Guy Ritchie in gangland again.

How bad can the world economy be if people are still giving Guy Ritchie money to make movies? On the 10th anniversary of his breakthrough with "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" a film about the near-incomprehensible doings of a group of London toughies with names like Dog, Plank, and Barry the Baptist Ritchie is back with "RocknRolla," a film about the almost entirely incomprehensible doings of a group of London toughies with names like Waster, Tank and Fred the Head. Given the crash-and-burn of his last mob job, the utterly incomprehensible "Revolver" (with French Paul, Fat Dan and Lord John), the time would seem to have come for Ritchie to stop making this movie.

The plot of "RocknRolla" can be suggested in only the most impressionistic terms. There's an old-school bad guy named Lenny (Tom Wilkinson, channeling Bob Hoskins in "The Long Good Friday") and a new-school Russian bad guy named Uri (Karel Roden, revisiting the shady Russki he played in "The Bourne Supremacy"). There are also a pair of low-level gangsters named One Two and Handsome Bob (Gerard Butler and Tom Hardy), and a pair of unlikely club owners named Mickey and Roman (Jeremy Piven and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), and a nest of gamblers called the Wild Bunch, and a crafty accountant named Stella (Thandie Newton), and a drugged-out rock star called Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell), who happens to be Lenny's stepson (not that it matters). Suave Mark Strong plays Lenny's enforcer, Archie, and gives the only really interesting performance in the movie.

What are all these people up to? Hard to say. There's a whole bunch of money involved, of course, and, rather oddly, a "lucky" oil painting that Uri has loaned to Lenny, for reasons that only a screenwriter (that would be Ritchie) could care about. Naturally it goes missing. In addition, there is a pit full of imported American crayfish (!) into which misbehaving miscreants are lowered for disposal. This is the most preposterous plot kink since ultra-evil Mason Verger schemed to feed Hannibal Lecter to a pen full of giant killer hogs in "Hannibal."

Ritchie has once again made a movie with far too many characters in it, and way too little of much interest for them to do (or, Lord knows, say). The picture aspires to the usual stylish savagery, but it mopes and drags. Why Ritchie didn't just go ahead and remake "The Long Good Friday" this time around is a puzzlement. (And it's too late now: "Death Race" director Paul W.S. Anderson is at this very moment in the process of trashing that little Cockney-gangster classic he's already relocated the action to Miami!)

A career re-think is definitely in order for Ritchie (although "Sherlock Holmes," his next project, is scary to contemplate). His take on the mean streets of London was never especially convincing. "RocknRolla" demonstrates that he's been married to the mob for way too long.