Guy Ritchie’s return to form in RocknRolla is a crazy, fun, and always cool look at crime in London, and while it might seem like re-tread territory to some, it is so damn entertaining that one should ask, why should we care?
To begin to explain this convoluted and twisting plot from the get go would be a bit of a pain, and Archie (Mark Strong) does a good job of keeping you in the loop as he narrates everyone’s comings and goings, but I will try my best to sum up here. Lenny (Tom Wilkinson) is a big wig crime boss in England that makes his money in property and twisting his connections into his favor. So when One Two (Gerard Butler) and Mumbles (Idris Elba) come to him with a lucrative property proposition, he gets in their way of a loan, and gets them to owe him money as well; all while he turns on the fast track to acquiring the property himself. To help fund this property, Lenny turns to Uri (Karel Roden) a Russian entrepreneur who is trying to get in on the property boom of London like many other “immigrants” are, and Lenny offers his contacts and connections at the cost of 7 million Euros. Uri eagerly agrees and offers his lucky painting as a sign of gratitude to Lenny and assures him that his (Uri) accountant (Thandie Newton) will be able to produce the money in little to no time. Well as you can imagine, things don’t go necessarily to plan and things become quite intertwined and a whole mess of trouble for everyone brews before the end.
Guy Ritchie’s plots tend to get a bit silly and out of control at times, but this one doesn’t really get to twisted you just get nailed with a lot of information for the first few minutes. From there on out it surprises and keeps you guessing, while slowly ramping up the insanity and entertainment along the way. The film also oozes style and is possibly Ritchie’s best looking film to date. The humor in the film is also fantastic with a great payoff to a relationship between One Two and another member of The Wild Bunch, Archie’s fantastic running gag around slapping, and the amazing chase scene at the end of the second act that like those involved, never really quit. Ritchie throws all this humor and style mixed in with some quality actors and he again has a rousing sucess.
There is no true star to this film as everyone gets about equal time, but there is top notch work from everyone involved though. Gerard Butler is hilarious as One Two, from the smug criminal attitude, the physical humor involved, and the great work he does with Tom Hardy, he deserves accolades all around. Tom Wilkinson chews up the scenery around him as the angry old school crime boss that slowly feels like his grip on his turf is fading. Mark Strong continues to stand out from the pack as Archie and provides laughs and is a badass from scene to scene; and between this and Body of Lies he is shaping up to be a major player in Hollywood, hopefully. Toby Kebbell nails the crazy junky rocknrolla that the film is named after, and after his work here and in Control, I can’t wait for more of him. Jeremy Piven and Chris Bridges have small parts in the picture and make the most of the screen time they had, even though they are around merely as plot device more than anything. Thandie Newton is conniving and great at just sitting back and letting things play out while she shines with her work against Karel Roden as the two size each other up every time they are on screen together. I can’t write home enough about this cast and am leaving plenty of great work without mention, but there is nary a falter here and one can’t possibly be disappointed.
In the end, RocknRolla is not only a return to form for Ritchie, but he has made his best picture yet possibly. Repeat viewings will test its longevity, but I don’t think any of his films were as enjoyable the first time around. A tad less dark then previous entries, but just a twisted and funny, RocknRolla proves Ritchie is still a filmmaker worth checking out and this gives me even higher hopes for a potentially awesome Sherlock Holmes movie in the not to distant future.