After a down period, director Guy Ritchie is back in top form with a comedic action-crime story that comes out shooting in style.
Dealing with a bunch of small-time thugs, shady London mobsters, Russian millionaires, junkie rock stars and assorted other members of the criminal underground, director Guy Ritchie has thankfully returned to the beat he knows best--even if the accents are a bit thick and the action often confusing. In this version of contemporary London, it's real estate--and not drugs--that is attracting all brand of criminal with the dangling carrot of a multi-million dollar deal. Into this mix comes the scrappy One-Two (Gerard Butler) and his cohorts Mumbles (Idris Elba) and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy), who manage to get a loan from the super-crooked, old-timey crime boss Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson). He intends to nab the property for himself and demands the money owed him anyway. In order to get the money repaid, One-Two hooks up with an attractive but shifty accountant (Thandie Newton), who works for a shady rich Russian dude. This is just the beginning, as the plot thickens and the atmosphere gets loaded with all sorts of interweaving characters with distinct motivations of their own to get a piece of the pie in an ever-changing London.
Guy Ritchie knows how to cast these things, and RocknRolla is no exception--starting with Wilkinson, almost recognizable, as the vicious oily mob boss who knows how to work the system to get just what he wants. Wilkinson is deliciously fun to watch. So is Toby Kebbell, as Lenny's loopy and off-the-wall stepson--a junkie rock star named Johnny Quid, who turns out to have the key to all the money. Butler is strong as the macho small-time thug out to conquer London real estate but gets stuck in a silly subplot when his partner (Hardy) suddenly admits he's gay and has feelings for him. Mark Strong, also impressive in this week's Body of Lies, is terrific as Lenny's right-hand man Archie, a guy who knows how these operations work. Karel Roden has nice moments as the billionaire Russian, but we wished there was more to Newton's role as she simply turns up every now and then without adding much to the proceedings. Elba (The Wire) is great as Mumbles, One-Two's best buddy and other partner in crime. And just for fun a couple of Americans get thrown into the stew: Jeremy Piven and Chris "Ludicris" Bridges, playing rock promoters who are trying to make it in the London music biz.
Guy Ritchie has had a rough patch lately, what with the dreadful Swept Away and the mind bogglingly numbness of Revolver, which sat on the shelf for two years before finally getting a nominal U.S. release. It's no wonder the director wanted to return to the Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch turf in which he made his name. With RocknRolla, he's done just that, and the results are encouraging. This flick is pure Guy Ritchie, with his patented penchant for colorful low-life characters, dense crime plotlines and a gang that can't seem to shoot straight. Even though there are characters being dropped in at a steady pace, and lots of stuff always going on, Guy Ritchie manages to keep it all humming and visually arresting. Another big plus is the soundtrack, which cranks. Overall, RocknRolla really rocks and totally delivers. It's a wild ride all the way. A promised sequel on the end credits can't come too soon.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.