Latest Guy Ritchie film a rollicking return to form

Category: RocknRolla Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: November 17, 2008 | Publication: The VanCougar | Author: Collin Rickman
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After a self-imposed exile into the Material Girl’s Kabbalistic aura and a handful of disastrously received films, it looks like the king of mockney muggings has realized there is no place like home.

Ever since his early 2000s heyday, Ritchie has been in the news mainly as an object for a guessing game. After directing now ex-wife Madonna in 2002’s oft-mocked remake of “Swept Away” and the absolutely buried “Revolver” in 2005, diehards were holding out hope that Ritchie had at least one more ace up his sleeve waiting to be thrown down. Critics who complained that the mayhem made famous in “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch” were exercises in style rather than substance saw the writing on the wall. Had the well of nasty nicknames and twisty plots run dry?

Apparently not.

Home-not-so-sweet-home being, of course, London’s seedy underworld. Ruled by thugs with a penchant for cartoonish violence and roguish wit, it’s a kingdom dark enough to intimidate but charming enough to make chaos and disorder look like just another walk in the park.

“RocknRolla” is another lively collection of colorful characters, with emphasis on the exploits of a group of small-time crooks called “The Wild Bunch.” Seeming leader One Two (Gerard Butler) along with cohorts Mumbles (Idris Elba) and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy). After the boys run afoul of aging crime boss Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson), the intricacy and flash by which Ritchie kick into high gear. It’s hard to miss.

The accents, of course, coat every line of dialogue in an irresistible crisp shell. There’s something about American susceptibility to British wordplay: we don’t always understand it but it’s just so damn artful. Even if it befuddles you (as it did most US moviegoers when “Lock, Stock” arrived in 1998) you’ll find listening easier this time around.

The story involves money being traded around and fought over, a result of complicated real estate deals and daylight robberies. Complicating things is rocker Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell), a philosophizing, junkie rock star who faked his death in vain – it seems the entire town knows it was a hoax. A minor player throughout the first half, his power grows as all events begin to lead back to him, climaxing in an explosive settlement of old debts. Thrown into the mix for added measure is a prized painting, a gay subplot, and a Russian enforcer duo that just won’t die.

Although these events bring the characters together and move the story forward, it really wouldn’t be anything without the energy the actors bring to the table. In these things, the characters carry a lot more weight than the story. Even if you forget the events in the film a few weeks later, you certainly remember who they happened to.

There are the required injections of black humor, the mandatory mixed signals, and the minor characters so crafted and convincingly unique that you forget they’re killers. Everything that made his name makes this movie. The question remains if there will be any more movies to be made. After a recent $60 million divorce settlement and children Ritchie is said to be devoted to, there may not be a rush on the mastermind’s part to get back to work.