Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: November 6, 2008 | Publication: See Magazine | Author: Kathleen Bell
Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla returns him to the form of Snatch, but with a tricky title.
The problem with the North American release of RocknRolla is that you can’t say “rocknrolla” with a Canadian accent without sounding like a git. So then you have to try saying it with a slightly British accent, which only serves to make it even more awkward. Of course you could just say “Rock ’n’ Roller,” but wouldn’t exactly be accurate, would it?
The most depressing part of the whole situation is that not one of director Guy Ritchie’s rock ’n’ rolling characters would ever have this problem. From the scummiest scumbag to the most grotesque junkie, Ritchie makes every dude and dudette in his ultra-stylized film seem cool — even if they’re in the middle of being beaten up or screwed over. Consequently, you’ll end up rooting for nearly every cockroach in an Armani suit and two-bit ne’er-do-well in trackies. Every one, that is, except Lenny Cole.
Lenny (Tom Wilkinson) is “old school,” running London through money, violence, and plain ol’ dirty tricks. His right-hand man is Archy (Mark Strong), and with Archy’s help the audience gets introduced to a city full of interconnected yet obliviously independent actors. We have the Russians who need Lenny to pave the way for a multimillion-dollar development project. We have Stella (Thandie Newton), a bored accountant who tips off One Two (Gerard Butler) as to when the Russians are going to move the seven million to pay off Lenny for his help. One Two has his own crew of criminals — Mumbles, Handsome Bob, Cookie — looking to get paid any way they can ’cause they owe Mr. Cole. And let’s not forget Lenny’s rocker stepson Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell), the only man in the U.K. who’s not afraid to get in pop’s face.
As you can tell, the movie’s plot is fabulously convoluted but you’ll fall for the twisted characters first and realize the story was neat sometime later. Ritchie’s talents lie in presenting his jumbled cast efficiently and effectively in a cut-and-paste style matched only by MTV. Even the minor roles, from the junkies selling fur coats in the middle of summer to the guys who hang around One Two’s den of thieves seem like full, messed-up people. Ritchie will put them in an edgy club, light it with an eerie grey-blue colour, give ’em a couple lines that rhyme and bam! Coolness ensues.
The actors contribute their far share too. Strong is the crooked version of debonair. Butler’s soft-thug is a laugh. Kebbell is captivating as the philosophical crack-addict, and while Lenny thinks “the next world war will have my name written all over it,” you get the feeling that even if he does start WWIII, he’ll also have a way of getting us all out of it.
While most credit Ritchie’s recent divorce with his return to form (which is harsh, by the way), I credit The Subways with setting ablaze the embers of his career. He must have heard “Rock ’n’ Roll Queen” and decided then and there to make a scattered fight scene to match that song. The music, the angled camerawork, the saturated colours, the quick language, it will all have you leaving the theatre wishing you were a RocknRolla... Rock ’n’ Roll-ar... RocknRoll-er. Ugh... dang that Canadian accent.