Directed by Guy Ritchie
Starring Gerald Butler, Mark Strong, Tom Wilkinson
Release date: October 31, 2008
If you told me a few weeks ago back in September that I would have lived to see my home team win the World Series and would have seen Guy Ritchie make a good movie again in the same week, I would have probably shanked you to death. But it’s happened — and I’m surprised like fuck. The Phillies, which is without a doubt the best team IN the league now (and try and fight that with me, because we can just look at the stats), win the World Series and everyone is surprised. Some of us probably still don’t believe that the Phillies have won the World Series this year.
I’m the person that still doesn’t believe that Guy Ritchie made such a film like RocknRolla.
Yes, remember that Guy Ritchie back in 1998 and 2000? Neither did I, until today. After Snatch he came out with one of the worst films that I’ve ever seen, the remake of Swept Away, starring none other than his soon-to-be ex-wife Madonna. Then he directed with Revolver, which really isn’t terrible, just sooo fucking boring. If you really want to know how boring it is, I fell asleep during it. I’ve only fallen asleep while watching two movies in my life, and that was one of them. But after this, I totally forgot about that shitty remake and that cure to insomnia. I really don’t want to say anything this close in the review, butRocknRolla is one of the best and most fun films of the year.
“People ask the question… what’s a RocknRolla?” says Archie (Mark Strong) in a voiceover at the beginning of the film. His boss, Lenny, (Tom Wilkinson) has control of London’s real-estate. Two gangsters, One-Two (Gerald Butler) and Mumbles, (Idris Elba) ask Lenny to finance a piece of real-estate property by giving them a loan. Instead, he double-crosses them and they are in millions of pounds in debt.
They meet Stella (Thandie Newton), who plans on stealing money from her boss Uri (Karel Roden), a Russian mobster. In order for Stella to get some of the money back, she hires One-Two and Mumbles and their friend Bob (Tom Hardy) to do the dirty work. It turns out that Uri and Lenny are in the middle of settling a deal on real-estate, and Uri gives Lenny his “good-luck” painting for a while. When it gets stolen, Lenny tells Archie to keep a close eye on all of the gangsters in the area. He also keeps a watch on Lenny’s stepson Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell), who fakes his death to get more record sales and do as much heroin as he possibly can.
Guy Ritchie is back in full form, introducing us new characters that we learn to love that are in a similar style of the characters in his first two films. RocknRolla relies on a little technique that Alfred Hitchcock used to use back in his days — the good ol’ McGuffin. It worked for other gangster films such as Pulp Fiction, and it most certainly works here. Here, the McGuffin is the painting that is lent to Lenny. Like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, we never see what the painting looks like. We just know that it is very valuable to Uri. This is the most important part of the film because it drives the story.
But the film is all about how we get things that we don’t give back. This is all centered on Lenny, who is the description of a real RocknRolla. He promises to give it to One-Two, but doesn’t give it all and One-Two is in a whole bunch of shit. It is almost a godsend to One-Two that Lenny is in a whole bunch of shit when someone breaks into Lenny’s place and steals the painting. This becomes important because we are witnessing Lenny’s business deal going sour. If only he would have helped One-Two, this might not have happened. Fucking Jigsaw couldn’t even give him a better punishment.
Aw, hell, I’m getting too far ahead of myself. RocknRolla isn’t about its themes, but all that Guy Ritchie is just trying to show us is that he can still have fun making movies, and you can have fun watching them. There is never a dull moment in RocknRolla; nothing feels out of place or like it should have been left on the cutting room floor. There is just enough action to be balanced with the right amount of humor to the right amount of story. The plot seems a little bit complicated, but I assure you, it’s easy enough to figure out. The film wouldn’t be without some of the great acting though.
The movie is lead by Gerald Butler, who plays almost the exact opposite of who he played in 300. Idris Elba comes back from starring in a shitty horror remake to one of the most entertaining gangsters in film history. Tom Wilkinson brings his guns to RocknRolla. It is easy to hate his character, but it is also easy to love his role. Thandie Newton is flawless in RocknRolla, which is pretty funny because she starred in W. a few weeks ago where she doesn’t do anything but look good. Mark Strong, who also starred in Body of Lies a few weeks ago and did a great job, gives a flawless performance also, so much that I think he should be nominated for an Oscar for this role. But the actor that I’m most impressed with is Toby Kebbell, who plays the heroin-addicted rock-star.
As I fall asleep tonight, I will have to try and take everything in — my team winning the World Series and Guy Ritchie making a great movie again. This really is too much for one week. When next week rolls around, the only thing that I will be surprised about is how come there is not a single fine movie like RocknRolla released in theaters.
**** out of ****