WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Russian crime boss Uri (Karl Roden) makes a deal with mafia real estate tycoon Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) to allow him to build a multi-million pound stadium in London. Uri must pay a large cash deposit, but is sold out by his accountant, Stella (Thandie Newton), who arranges for her gangster boyfriend, One Two (Gerard Butler), and his buddies, to steal the money. At the same time, Uri also lends Lenny his "lucky painting" as a gesture of goodwill, which is then stolen by Lenny’s crackhead rock star stepson, Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell). Things go crazy when Uri sends in the muscle, while various London hoodlums fight it out for the money and the priceless painting.
* An interview with the director and cast of RocknRolla
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Guy Ritchie single-handedly reinvented the British gangster movie and wowed us all with the one-two punch of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), and Snatch (2000). Those movies were imaginatively violent East End pantomimes, filled with ludicrous scenes, larger than life characters, and over the top violence. Since then, Ritchie has been responsible for such crimes against entertainment as Swept Away (2002) and Revolver (2005), decimating his reputation.
Now he’s back with RocknRolla, a crazy story of heists, double crosses, and weird gangsters, set in and around London. So, should anyone care?
Not unless you want the cinematic equivalent of warm milk spiked with Valium, is the answer. Whether it was the effect of his marriage to Madonna, or just middle age, Ritchie has lost his fire and delivered a movie with all the thrills of lying under your duvet on a cold morning.
The plot is as ridiculous and confused as it sounds – by the time you make it halfway through the movie, you barely care who has stolen what, or who is scamming who. These constant twists might have worked in the fast-paced Snatch, which balanced visceral action with sharp wit, but Rocknrolla wafts by in a languid fashion, giving you ample opportunity to ponder each new arbitrary development as if it was supposed to mean something.
Matters aren’t helped by the horrible recycled dialogue and constant Brit clichés that make up just about every line. Each character is written as a twelve-year-old boy hanging out in the playground, trying to act harder than his friends, so we’re treated to fine actors like Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Gerard Butler and Mark Strong all spouting the same well 'ard crap, in the same cynical manner.
There are a few scenes where it seems like Ritchie is exploring some new territory, like One Two’s amusing relationship with Handsome Bob, and the father-son feud between Lenny and Johnny Quid, but it all just comes back to endless two dimensional gangsters and rhyming slang.
Rocknrolla is the worst thing a movie can be – boring, especially from a man whose name is synonymous with white-knuckled thrills and edgy humour. In formula, Rocknrolla is the same as Snatch and Lock, Stock, but in execution, it is a dreary, plodding mess. Hopefully he will have got back on form for next year’s Sherlock Holmes.
* Read an interview with the director and cast of RocknRolla