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Guy Ritchie: the case for the defense (blog)

Category: RocknRolla Reviews
Article Date: September 5, 2008 | Publication: film blog at The Guardian UK | Author: Steve Rose

Posted by: stagewomanjen

Peter Bradshaw's given RocknRolla one star. Other critics have followed suit. So why was it The Duchess that I walked out of in horror?

Half-dreading the screening of Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla earlier this week, I deliberately positioned myself near the end of the row in the cinema so that I could make a swift, inconspicuous exit when I decided I'd seen enough shooters, boozers, geezers, gangsters, etc. But you know what? I watched the whole thing and even laughed once or twice. The fact that someone had sat next to me, blocking me in for the duration, had little or nothing to do with it.

In the same way east Germans nostalgically recall the good old days of the Iron Curtain, I've been wondering recently if Guy Ritchie's movies were really as bad as all that. I was prejudiced against him, as are many others out there. Not without reason, but he's an easy target, what with his gossip-friendly marriage, his mockney airs, his lad-mag values and most of all, his success. He's been mercilessly, albeit amusingly, sent up by the likes of Adam and Joe, Harry Enfield, The Fast Show, you name it, and yes, his films have many, many deficiencies, but I'm going to come out and say it: he's not without his qualities as a film-maker.

He knows where to put a camera, and how to pace a movie. He can serve up a plot like a plate of spaghetti (see, I'm even talking like him now) without ever losing the viewer. He knows he's really too posh to be hard - his production company is called Toff Guy - geddit?

And if his scripts are full of painfully cheesy lines, he's at least smart enough to cast actors who can get away with saying them. In RocknRolla it's good to see underused actors like Matt "Super Hans" King, Idris "Stringer Bell" Elba, Toby "Rob Gretton" Kebbell, and Nonso Anozie. HHe's given a leg-up to others, including Jason Statham (who, like it or not, is now a bona fide action hero), Matthew Vaughn (whose Layer Cake probably got Daniel Craig the Bond job) er, Jason Flemyng, Vinnie Jones. I'll stop there, shall I?

I know what you're thinking: Oi! Rose. Shut it! Ritchie is often slated for living in some make-believe London gangsterland that's nothing to do with real life, but look at the other new British film on offer this week, The Duchess. Which one would you like to represent our country or our film industry: National Trust locations, 18th century melodramatics and Keira Knightley in a wig, or Ritchie's caricatures of Roman Abramovich, crack-pipe pop stars, the contemporary art world and British homophobia? With its middle England-friendly upper-crust associations and horse-drawn production values, The Duchess will doubtless get a far easier ride than RocknRolla in the "quality" press, but I must confess, I found it so irritatingly unimaginative and unconvincing, I actually DID walk out of it. So one-nil to Guy.

I'm not going to swear he's the future of British cinema. All I am saying is give Guy a chance. If we stop looking down on him, he might yet produce a masterpiece.


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