From the visually arresting opening credits, Guy Ritchie’s RockNRolla pulls the audience into its crazy fictional London which is inhabited by gangsters, a superstitious Russian investor, drug addicted rockers and a gang that can’t quit shoot straight or put a car into reverse.
The plot is a labyrinth that brings divergent groups of interested parties together. Russian businessman, Uri (Karel Rodens) wants the wheels greased so his building project can get finished much sooner than later. He turns to longtime homegrown mobster Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) who knows not only who to call but who to lean on for results. Johnny Quid (Toby Kebell) is a rocker playing dead to increase his record sales, but he has his own reasons for wanting to give Lenny some serious grief. One Two (Gerard Butler) and his Wild Bunch – Mumbles (Idris Elba) and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy) want in on the riches of London’s new development, but when Lenny makes their funding dry up they have to find another source of euros. They do, with the help of Stella (a cool Thandie Newton) Uri’s accountant, who likes to play both ends of the stick. Add in the theft of Uri’s lucky painting which he loaned to Lenny and you have a wild and very funny ride.
RockNRolla is driven by the fast pace and quick cuts of Ritchie’s earlier films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and he’s back on familiar territory of an underworld of shady deals, drugs and violence.
Gerard Butler, last seen in the kid flick Nim’s Island, but known for his fierce King Leonidas in 300, demonstrates a flair for comedy in his adept comic turn as One Two. He creates a character with some interesting contradictions. Toby Kebell stands out as the drug addicted, philosophy-spouting rocker, who also knows how to turn a pencil into a lethal weapon. The Oscar nominated Tom Wilkinson, known for heavy dramatic roles also shows a flair for the funny. The strong cast includes Jeremy Piven, Ludacris, billed as Chris Bridges, and Mark Strong as Lenny’s second in command, Archie, who narrates the film.
RockNRolla may not break new ground for director Guy Ritchie, but it certainly brings him back in style from the brink of cinematic extinction. After the disastrous remake Swept Away starring wife Madonna and Revolver which was an incoherent mess, he needed to show he could come up with a sharp entertaining film. He does that with ease. Clever writing, good direction and a great cast give Ritchie the boost he needs heading into the big budget Sherlock Holmes film.
The Upside: A great cast and good work by director/writer Ritchie. It’s a hell of a lot of fun to go along for the ride.
The Downside: Is it going to shake up the world of film? No.