Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson
Mark Strong, Thandie Newton, Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, Jeremy Piven, Jimy Mistry
Tom Wilkinson seems to draw immense pleasure from unleashing his inner sleaze playing Lenny Cole, a London crime boss negotiating a multimillion deal with a Russian property dealer (Karel Roden).
There’s also One Two (a hilarious Butler), Mumbles (Elba) and “Handsome” Bob (the scene stealing Hardy) a group of crooks trying to intercept the money from the deal with the aid of a sly accountant (Newton). Add to this an allegedly dead junkie rock star named Johnny Quid (Kebbell), a stolen painting (and ingenious McGuffin), carnivorous crawfish and a duo of Russian hitmen. Put all of those characters, situations and items together and you end with this movie, where the plot is the last thing that matters, but that doesn’t keep Lenny’s assistant Archie (the wonderful Mark Strong who by far owns the movie with his mixture of tough and coolness) from trying to narrate everything.
Guy Ritchie has a knack for brutal comedy (and his writing isn’t half bad) that gives the movie its intense energy and entertainment value, but he also has some deep rooted issues that make the movie lack something.
One of them is his insistence with gay jokes; from Brad Pitt’s ultra toned physique in “Snatch”, to Adriano Giannini’s scruffy appeal in “Swept Away” Ritchie has a weird ability to capture the beauty of the male body that would make Derek Jarman’s eyebrows give an ironic raise (and who can blame him when he was married to the gay icon by excellence…).
In this film he makes one of his characters gay, but instead of using this to stereotyped, yet effective, comedy purposes he has several other characters become fascinated by what this homosexuality implies about them.
This discomfort would’ve been effective (gay crooks!?! A riot!) if the director wasn’t drawing unintentional homoerotic attention to random moments of the film.
Ritchie turns a chase sequence of ACME proportions into a Hugo Boss perfume ad by having a very fit thug take his shirt off to reveal his extremely ripped physique…in slow motion.
The same two characters will later become involved in a torture scene which includes gagging, policemen hats and vodka. And “I’m not gay” becomes almost a catchphrase within the movie.
Another of Ricthie’s problems is his need to create his own language and untie himself from other currents. While it’s immediately obvious that “RocknRolla” draws heavily from the filmographies of Tarantino, Scorsese and even the Rat Pack (going by way of Steven Soderbergh), Lenny often reminds other characters and the viewers that they aren’t gangsters.
This constant need of Ritchie to reaffirm his role, which here evokes vintage James Bond and Sam Peckinpah, only comes off looking as a slightly pathetic fear of being emasculated (again…he was married to Madonna, one can’t blame him entirely).
“RocknRolla” spends far too much time worrying about what it’s not that it ends up not knowing what it actually is.