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RocknRolla - Review

RocknRolla

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

DVD & BLU-RAY EXTRAS: Blokes, Birds, and Backhanders: Inside RocknRolla -Exploring the twisty-turny plot of scams, heists, double-crosses, killer crayfish and Chechen thuggery in the film; Guy’s Town – Guy Ritchie shapes a crime saga around London’s evolving landscape, and lives to tell the tale; Digital Copy of the movie; Commentary by Guy Ritchie; Deleted Scenes.

GUY Ritchie’s return to the type of gangster movie that helped make his name with Lock, Stock… and is a surprisingly enjoyable experience that goes some way to banishing the memory of Swept Away and Revolver.

While no classic, RocknRolla benefits from a terrific British cast and some of Ritchie’s undoubted directorial style, which wraps an overly convoluted plot in the type of smart-talking cool that has become his trademark.

The plot principally focuses on old-school London gangster Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) as he attempts to remain on top in London.

But he has his work cut out, what with a wealthy Russian mob moving in with a riverfront property swindle, a small-timer One Two (Gerard Butler) and his crew thinking they can play both sides and become big-time, a hard-as-ice accountant (Thandie Newton), a rocker (Toby Kebbell) playing dead to boost sales, wannabe music moguls (Jeremy Piven and Chris Bridges), and a missing painting to contend with. It’s left to his loyal right-hand man Archie (Mark Strong) to make the right moves to keep Lenny there.

For the most part, RocknRolla gets by on the strong performances of its great ensemble cast. Wilkinson makes his Lenny a wonderfully malevolent scoundrel, while Strong is on top form as his ally (arguably stealing the show).

But Butler is good value, too, as the leader of The Wild Bunch, while Thandie Newton makes sure she’s not left behind by the testosterone on show, turning in a cool, calculating femme fatale.

The violence is as swift and brutal as we’ve come to expect from Ritchie, with all manner of beatings and kickings being served up to a hip soundtrack, while the gangster dialogue is similarly smooth flowing.

There are times when Ritchie appears to be straining too hard to become the British equivalent of Quentin Tarantino, even dropping in a cheeky dance sequence between Butler and Newton that’s reminiscent of Travolta and Thurman in Pulp Fiction. While the screenplay is as self-referential, self-congratulatory and verbose, in places, as Tarantino at his most excessive.

But Ritchie does cast London in a very stylish light, perhaps even drawing on Ridley Scott and Michael Mann’s eye for visual style, and there are some well-choreographed set pieces to bring the story to a close.

He even audaciously ends the film at a starting point… bravely declaring as events run their course that certain characters will return for the real RocknRolla.

So, while Ritchie’s latest probably won’t win any converts to his cause, it does reaffirm his position as a stylish – if slightly one-note – British filmmaker who is capable of delivering highly enjoyable weekend crowdpleasers.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 115mins
UK DVD & Blu-Ray Release: February 2, 2009