Saturday, November 1, 2008

Rocked, rolled [RocknRolla]

RocknRolla [R]
Grade: C
Cast: Tom Wilkinson, Gerard Butler, Toby Kebbell, Thandie Newton, Mark Strong
Director: Guy Ritchie

With Keira Knightley and The Duchess having already knocked out the annual British costume drama quota for this fall, it is time for Guy Ritchie to show up with RocknRolla and fill the British gangster picture slot. Now the world of British filmmaking can feel complete.


A sweet-natured criminal in debt for a cool couple million.
A crooked businessman who runs London.
A druggie rock star who, by all accounts is dead. Or should be.
A vamp accountant with a taste for theft.
A Russian billionaire with a fondness for poisoned cocktails.
A reflective henchman.
Two hopeless record producers.
A lucky painting,
A stash of hot cash.
And a bad London land deal going badder every minute.

Drop them into a blender and see what kind of story comes out. These are the things that RocknRolla has going for it. And also the things that go against it.

Being overwhelmed with so much stuff, it’s just the law of averages. Some storylines and characters in Guy Ritchie’s hip, twisty new release are more exhilarating than others. And some are duller than others.

When it’s creative … like a car robbery thwarted by a stick shift …. a fresh, funny sex scene …. a fight to the death won by distance running …. It’s oh so good. When it’s not, it drifts so much, and there’s nothing that Ritchie;’s endless style and visual flair can do to enliven it.

The film features roughly every semi-famous British actor Ritchie could get his hands on (Gerard Butler, Thandie Newton, Mark Strong, Toby Kebbell). Very strong is the maliciously great Tom Wilkinson as Lenny Cole, a wheelchair-bound wheeler dealer greasing his own palm. Among the virtues of this film, one should not overlook the reminder that Wilkinson is actually English.

The words that have long attended Ritchie’s films still apply. Hip. Stylish. Flashy. Empty. Nothing really changes, does it?

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