Mob scene

Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: November 6, 2008 | Publication: The Daily Orange | Author: Blake Rong
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Watching a Guy Ritchie movie is like being asked to solve three jigsaw puzzles at the same time.

It's left to you - the hapless viewer - to put the pieces together and make sense of intertwined storylines, jarring transitions, and a group of characters more diverse than the backstage of "America's Got Talent."

Granted, they're stylish, beautifully done films, a testimonial to the director's kinetic style that won him international acclaim from his 1998 debut "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels."

Yet by all logical means, it sounds like a terrible affront to the basic concept of storytelling.

Still, writer and director Ritchie has made surprisingly good use of this form, using it effectively in his breakout hit "Snatch" and proving that Brad Pitt can be funny, too.

His latest work, "RocknRolla," promises a return to form after two disappointing films that were so bad nobody even remembers them being released, much less seeing them (forgotten film "Revolver" and a remake of an old Italian comedy, "Swept Away," that was so bad it convinced pop star Madonna to stay away from acting forever). Critics still love to point them out, however, by hyping this film as a return to his roots.

Veteran actor Tom Wilkinson ("Batman Begins," "Michael Clayton") is an aging mobster named Lenny who controls London's real estate market, of which a Russian businessman wants a part, lending Lenny his lucky painting as a sign of good faith.

Their shady land scam goes awry, however, when a Scottish thug named One Two (Gerard Butler, "300") and his friends, "The Wild Bunch," manage to steal the money, on a tip from a sexy accountant (Thandie Newton, "Crash").

Rock star Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell, "Alexander") gets far less screen time than you would think a movie called "RocknRolla" would give him. He's not living the good life, as the opening narration wants you to believe; instead, he spends much of the movie wasting his life away, and that's about as philosophical as Ritchie ever gets.

Along the way, a pair of American record producers, a homosexual lawyer, a mousey-looking dealer named Cookie, a pair of pickpocket junkie auctioneers, and other denizens of the underworld are led along for the ride.

A cartoonish chase involving two invincible Russian hitmen and the funniest sex scene ever on film (a fairly easy award to win, if not unintentionally) provide sporadic flashes of genius along with Ritchie's beautifully crafted cinematography.

Unfortunately, pieces of the puzzle are missing, resulting in a frustrating ending that lacks the cohesion of his first two works. People are briefly introduced, then lost in the shuffle between scenes, relegated to mere sideshow characters that could be interesting in their own lights.

The movie is filled with random scenes that don't lead anywhere, usually only showing off Ritchie's impressive collection of one-liners and failed subplots. The result feels jumbled and too confusing to be satisfying, lacking the relative focus that "Snatch" had.

The movie practically encourages multiple viewings for audiences to make sense of what they just saw - it's great for DVD and ticket sales, but hell for those trying to lose themselves in escapist fun, even if twisted plotlines are Ritchie's idea of escapist fun.

And therein lies the rub: Ritchie has become so entrenched in his trademark style of filmmaking that he doesn't realize that he's losing the plot. As a director, he has crafted another stylish, beautiful movie that captures your attention and relentlessly assaults you with the glamour of the underworld. As a writer, however, he has descended into self-parody.