RocknRolla heavy on thugs, moderate on rock ‘n’ roll, and low on sex
Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: November 12, 2008 | Publication: The Muse | Author: Zaren White
Besides being the (now former) Mr. Madonna, British film writer/director Guy Ritchie is best known for his raucously funny ensemble cast gangster capers.
Critical and popular acclaim with films such as Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch have created a comfortable niche for Richie. He knows that the formula for a funny and entertaining movie revolves around robberies, conspiracies, drugs, clueless criminals, big money scams, and lots of dramatic irony.
Oh, and maybe a Russian mobster or two.
RocknRolla is narrated by Archie (Strong), right hand man of big daddy mobster Lenny Cole (Wilkinson) − a fiercely territorial jackass who’s got his finger on the pulse of London’s underworld.
A large real estate transaction with a Russian mobster named Uri gets the attention of big time crooks and hapless hustlers alike when Uri’s stoically seductive personal accountant Stella (Newton) turns out to be a little crooked herself.
She sets up a few deals with a ragtag trio of barely capable criminals named in typical Guy Ritchie fashion: One Two, Mumbles, and Handsome Bob.
Led by infamous schemer Mr. One Two, played by Gerard Butler, the gang sets off a string of shady undertakings, stealing Uri’s money that was intended for Lenny.
Lenny starts to sweat when Uri’s favourite painting − given to him temporarily by Uri for the duration of their business transaction − mysteriously disappears.
Meanwhile, presumed dead rocker and junkie Johnny Quid (Kebbell) is alive and…unwell, getting high and into some serious hijinks.
As with all storylines that revolve around people trying to screw each other over and getting screwed over themselves, many people are implicated in each other’s business and dramatic irony ensues.
For a clarification of the title, “RocknRolla” is well, British for “rock ‘n’ roller.” According to narrator Archie, being a RocknRolla isn’t just about the drugs nor is it about wanting the money, sex, and glamour for that matter – “A real RocknRolla wants the fucking lot.”
RocknRolla is all about characterization, and with an extensive and talented cast, the performances are very strong. In a caper this complicated there are too many actors to name, but a shout out must be extended to Ludacris for his very hilarious minor role as one of Johnny Quid’s frustrated ex-managers.
Gerard Butler is less ripped than he was as King Leonidas in 300, but he’s still sexy, especially with his native Scottish accent intact. Butler may be featured as the lead for poster purposes, but, true to form, Ritchie divides screen time among a myriad of complicated characters.
Wilkinson is electrifying as the baddest ass in town, Lenny.
Thandie Newton also stands out, somewhat by default being the absolute only female with an above moderate role, and somewhat because she plays gorgeous and dangerous so effortlessly.
While Johnny Quid’s role resembles an alternate storyline for a lot of the film, presumably he’s there to embody the RocknRolla lifestyle that the film purports to feature. Ironically, Johnny doesn’t seem to have a lot of glamour going on, just a lot of strung out violence. There’s definitely no sex either.
The tagline may boast “a story of sex, thugs, and rock ‘n roll” but that’s all bravado. RocknRolla has less sex than an amoeba. The only one, miniscule, instance of sex is implied rather than actually shown on screen, and what’s worse, it is actually a comically fast-forwarded 10-second montage.
Abstinence considered, Guy Ritchie is definitely back in action with this well developed, hilarious, and often off-the-wall gangster comedy.