Recently, I took some time to finally give Guy Ritchie another chance. The man had made two really awesome movies, then mucked about a bit and made some real stinkers. Having heard good things about RocknRolla, I set settled in to give it a watch. Ultimately the movie was okay, maybe I’d call it good. It had some fun bits and some bad bits. Closer to his old work most definitely, but it did have one annoying trait – the painting. The painting that moves gangsters to tears and transfers hands like a hot commodity. Of course, we never get to see it. And that, of course, is bullshit.
I’m most definitely annoyed by things like this. This wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time, but come on. It’s not cute or clever or coy. It’s annoying. It’s lazy. Perhaps the most famous example would be the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. What’s in it? At this point, who cares? Things like this are done to stimulate conversation if we want to give the writer/director some credit. But what it really is is a false mystery. It’s a mystery that doesn’t have an answer. You’ll never know. You’re not supposed to know. That isn’t a revelation, that’s a cheat.
What’s really happening here is something momentous is supposed to take place. But the writer/director can’t actually come up with something momentous. Say you have two characters in a strange relationship and you want their parting to have a real impact. They meet one last time on the busy streets of Tokyo (Lost in Translation, I’m looking at you) to share one last conversation. We don’t hear it. Not because it’s a mystery. Because no one can come up with something groundbreaking. So cheat it. Have an unheard whisper. This is the revelation, but its far too deep or mysterious for you. Fuck off.
In RocknRolla we’re supposed to believe this lucky painting is something only a man of taste would appreciate. Something deep and brilliant. I guess Guy Ritchie doesn’t have any of those qualities tucked away, because he can’t pick a painting that fits the bill. In Cigarette Burns from the Masters of Horror series we’re told there is a film so -something- that it drives the audience to madness. We don’t get to see much of anything, because no one can comprehend how to relay that to us, the real audience. Cheaters. Likewise, The Hills Run Red talks about the most hardcore, awesome slasher film of all time. We see a few frames of it, but basically what amounts to boring home movies. Come on, if you’re going to promise me something big, show me something big. Show me the money.
There may have been a time when something like this was cool or clever. I probably wasn’t invited to that party. Today, this trick may work as a joke. An knowing nod to just how absurd and infantile it is. What the filmmaker wants you think he’s saying is “I have a secret, and I’m not telling.” Well, I’m going to let you know what his secret is – he can’t come up with anything smart to fill the void. You really think they want that false mystery there when they could have something amazing? Give ’em Hell Malone features a secret object in a briefcase, said to be the secret of love or some such and whether or not you like the actual reveal, at least it was actually revealed. Take a chance. Don’t play these childish games and think that because you, like some cheap sidewalk magician, said you’ve got an awesome rabbit in your hat, we’re just going to take your word for it. Pull it out by the ears. As you’ve no doubt guessed, every time I (don’t) see some pretentious no-show-secret-in-a-box I’ll be more than glad to show the filmmakers my boiling point.
Does this sort of thing bother you? If so, sound off.