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Film review: RocknRolla

Category: RocknRolla Reviews
Article Date: November 12, 2008 | Publication: Sunday Star Times | Author: Barney McDonald

Posted by: stagewomanjen

Guy Ritchie asserts that RocknRolla may be the beginning of a trilogy, and yet in many ways it completes a trio of films begun with Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.

Excluding Revolver, an excursion into the mystical realms of the ego that failed to perform, RocknRolla revisits such tried and true Ritchie themes as old values supplanted by new methods, the powerful bond of friendship and the unremitting pursuit of wealth at any cost.

Along the way, it's packed with great dialogue, unique characters and humour.

Although the film already has as many detractors as fans, RocknRolla is Ritchie's most ambitious foray into the world of London's gang culture (Revolver's pretentious use of Kabbalic ideas, symbols and numerology notwithstanding).
It takes the concept of gangsters into the corporate landscape, thereby suggesting that some of the men responsible for London's recent building boom are more nefarious than they seem.

In itself, that isn't especially revolutionary. Property speculation is peppered with shifty characters and dodgy deals.

Where Ritchie ups the ante is by crossing the recent influx of East European wealth with London's history of gangster etiquette, and street thugs on the prowl with a new breed of criminal who shares more than a little in common with The Dark Knight's take on the Joker.

If Revolver was a misguided attempt by Ritchie to add a deeper philosophical subtext to his template of violence and humour, his post-Madonna film is the work of a man who realises he need not try so hard to enlighten as he entertains.

Like Quentin Tarantino, his North American counterpart, Ritchie has the talent and confidence to stun audiences. His scripts crackle with wit; his screen overflows with brilliance.

RocknRolla is no exception.

Like its predecessors, RocknRolla relies heavily on implausible coincidences and ridiculously lucky breaks to propel the story to its inevitable conclusion.

If the audience is prepared to suspend its disbelief, Ritchie has crafted a film that is as much rollercoaster as it is rock'n'roll.

Certain scenes featuring Johnny Quid, a rock star with a taste for heroin and nihilistic self-determination, are extraordinary. Other scenes are simply hilarious.
And then there's the violence. Like Tarantino or Ritchie's other American counterpart, Martin Scorsese, the British director isn't shy about glamorising and glorifying violence.
One scene in particular, shot at a nightclub, interlaces a scorching live performance by a band playing inside with an excessive display of ultraviolence outside. Arguably gratuitous, it's a profoundly affecting scene.

And yet, in the world Ritchie depicts, violence is a form of currency. The bigger you are, the harder you fall; the harder you play, the greater the cost.

In terms of the acting, Ritchie gives his diverse cast plenty to play with.

Tom Wilkinson is superb as old-school crook Lenny Cole. As One Two, 300 star Gerard Butler is another of Ritchie's eminently likeable villains.

And Mark Strong, who starred in Revolver, adds another excellent performance to a string of credits that includes Syriana and Body of Lies.

Not for every palate, RocknRolla is the real deal: a film that works because of and despite the risks it takes.


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