January 28, 2009



Reviewer: Dylan de Thomas
Rating (out of 5): ***

Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla, an inoffensively-entertaining gangland romp, is clearly an attempt to return to his earlier, Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels form which gained him a measure of fame as a kind of British Quentin Tarantino.

While Snatch is probably his best-known film in the U.S., Ritchie was, until recently, more visible stateside for being Madonna's hubby and baby daddy. In fact, it was his collaboration with the pop star, the execrable Swept Away, that came close to scuttling his own career in this country.

As the writer and director of RocknRolla, Ritchie richly envisions contemporary London as a place where real estate has supplanted drugs and other vice for the city's underworld. One imagines that this may have changed somewhat during the current global real estate meltdown – UK property valuations dropped an average of 22 percent in 2008, according to the Wall Street Journal – but it still makes for novel backdrop for thugs doing bad things to one another.

Fun, shallow performances are turned in by all, including an amusingly hammy turn by Tom Wilkinson as the head baddie, and a very likeable performance by rising-star Gerard Butler as the main "good" guy (relatively speaking). His partner is ably played by Idris Elba, who previously had a star turn as Stringer Bell on the HBO's superlative show, The Wire.

And, like the aforementioned Tarantino, Ritchie achieves what the cult director had hoped for his Jackie Brown – that is, a kind of "hang out" film, where the characters have primacy over the silly plot located therein. Instead, you can hang out with the ne'er-do-well blokes and lasses of RocknRolla and have a good time with them as they wend their way through the plot.

The extras include a standard commentary track and an interesting doc that focuses more on the real estate in the film than on the film itself, everyone obviously giddy on the pre-global-doom property valuations.

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Posted by cphillips at January 28, 2009 4:13 PM

Nice review of a nice (well, in a sleazy, nasty way) movie, Dylan. What surprised me about this film, which is quite up to the usual Ritchie standard (I'd even give it another half-star) is how it handles the gay element, which is stronger here than in any other of this fellow's films. This indicates to me that British audiences may be ready to look at the "gay" thing in a different, more inclusive way that heralds an increased acceptance of not just homosexuality but the fact that male sexuality may include possibilities heretofore unacknowledged. As did last year's "A Very British Gangster," this movie notes that change is afoot -- at least in the world of criminals....

Posted by: James van Maanen at January 30, 2009 8:11 AM
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