Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: November 14, 2008 | Publication: Yale Daily News | Author: Jack Mirkinson
Although they’ve both come to our shores from Britain, Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky” and Guy Ritchie’s “RocknRolla” could not be more different from one another. One is a quiet chronicle of the life of a working-class woman, and one is a loud, hard sprawl through London’s gangster scene. More importantly, one is terrific and one is terrible.
“RocknRolla” adds essential insight into Ritchie’s recent divorce from Madonna. It seems likely that she took one look at the mess her husband had made and fled instantly. The lady’s got good judgment. I practically had to nail myself to the seat to avoid walking out.
Ritchie is returning to the same blokes-with-guns template he has worked off of throughout his career, with severely diminishing returns. “RocknRolla” suffers from an acute case of stylistic schizophrenia, a hateful attitude towards gay people, a dismissive attitude towards women, and a boatload of talented actors mugging their way through idiotic plot sequences.
The London of “RocknRolla” is a zoo of rapacious capitalism, where crooks and gangsters scurry through the City (London’s Wall Street) and the city, robbing, killing and conning. It’s a place where all the prices, as we are told repeatedly, are going up. (Too bad it hit the screen just as Britain plunged into what is likely to be a deep recession, where the skyscrapers it drools over are filled with newly impoverished workers.) Most of the action is driven by a convoluted business scheme and a bunch of stolen cash. There’s a crack-addled rock star, a curvy accountant and an endless array of thugs with thick accents and colorful names. Very few of them register.
Ritchie is less concerned with making a plot we haven’t seen many times before — especially in films he’s made —than with throwing his usual bag of flash at us. He tries so many tricks that the film drowns in them: playing with slow motion, or blurring the images, or having words appear in boxes onscreen, or shaking the camera, or pointing it in strange directions. There winds up being nothing worth looking at, since the film is passionless and nihilistic, with little regard for its characters except as snazzy archetypes for Ritchie to play with.
There is about one good minute in “RocknRolla.” In it, Thandie Newton and Gerard Butler shimmy to a shiny 80s beat. It’s loosey-goosey, sexy and fun — three things that cannot be said about the 113 remaining minutes of this grim affair. At the end, we are informed that all the characters are set to return in a sequel. God help us.