Gangster film has laughs, violence

Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: November 12, 2008 | Publication: burbankleader.com | Author: Bob Harris
Publication/Article Link:http://www.burbankleader.com/articles/2008/11/12/entertainment/gnp-reel15.1.txt

“RockNRolla” is a lark of a gangster film punctuated by random, brutal acts of violence. Set in the boomtown of modern London where the construction cranes looming over the skyline are as ubiquitous as Big Ben, this tale of “sex, thugs and rock ’n’ roll” is a crime film just as interested in laughs as gunfire.

“RockNRolla” sets the new lords of crime and commerce on a mad dash across London town with vivid dreams of colorful Euros raining down on their heads and an explosive soundtrack to jackhammer their larcenous black hearts.

The plot for the film is complex but not impenetrable. Lenny (Tom Wilkinson) is an old-school London crime lord with his hand in every mob deal, be it armed robbery, gambling or, as in the film’s opening, a crooked real estate transaction. One Two (Gerard Butler) and Mumbles (Idris Elba) are looking to buy into the white-hot London real estate market. However, they have to go through Lenny for all the proper payoffs to be made.

Lenny, crook that he is, has no intention of letting the lads get the property, so he swindles them. Thus, the pair tumbles into the crime lord’s debt. Meanwhile, Lenny has another deal set up with the new mob in town, a wolf pack of Euro-laden Russians led by Uri (Karel Roden). In a gesture of good will, Uri lends Lenny his precious, priceless “lucky” painting. The painting is, of course, immediately stolen from Lenny, forcing him to employ desperate, vicious measures to find it or face the Russians’ homicidal wrath. And all that is in just the first 15 minutes.

“RockNRolla” is a whiplash-fast and often very funny crime caper featuring a marvelous cast of cinematic oddballs. Only two characters have any sense of what is really going on, Stella (Thandie Newton) a mob accountant and Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell), the titular “RockNRolla.”

Newton gives a smoking-hot performance as the blithely bored-with-it-all Stella who uses her sex appeal to mask her real intentions and blind her suitors. These two, on their own separate paths, set most of the plot in motion. Both have reasons for their actions, money and revenge, and both have no real idea, or care, what demon dogs they have unleashed. But, as they should have known (and characters in films like this never do when money is involved), blood will, and soon does, flow, abundantly.

For writer and director Guy Ritchie, “RockNRolla” is a continuation of his infatuation with the London underworld seen previously in “Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch.” As envisioned here, 21st century London is the stylish new world for crime to thrive.

Ritchie and his cast have delivered a crime caper with mod characters, snappy, sharp dialogue and twisty, twisted thrills.

You may find yourself at times lost in the maze of a plot, the high volume of characters or some of the English accents, but by the film’s end it should all be clear.