RocknRolla is sexy, fast, loose, smart, and extremely funny. It's crammed with colorful criminals, which Ritchie and cinematographer David Higgs backlight to great effect. It chokes on delightfully screwy schemes, which the director and his editor James Herbert slice, tape, and test drive at breakneck speeds. And that's the key. It keeps moving, hardly caring if you are keeping up.
Archie (Mark Strong), our narrator, works for London kingpin Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson), who double-crosses charming thugs One Two (Gerard Butler) and Mumbles (Idris Elba) on, of all things, a semi-lucrative real estate deal. As can be the case with Ritchie, this deal is the tip of a filthy, dirty iceberg that sweeps up Russian money-man Uri (Karel Roden), crooked accountant Stella (Thandie Newton), and One Two's loyal crew, the Wild Bunch.
Ritchie, who wrote the Rock script, keeps us guessing which game will eventually take center stage. Will it be the house One Two and Mumbles hope to acquire? Or will it be the Euros Lenny owes to Yuri? How about Yuri's missing painting, which we're never shown, a la the glowing whatever-you-think-it-is in Marsellus Wallace's briefcase)?
Or will Ritchie's focus fall on Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell), Lenny's oft-mentioned rock star son-in-law with a debilitating drug habit? Ritchie has said in interviews it wasn't his intention to tell Johnny's story, but Kebbell so effectively steals this show that the director had little choice. We're witnessing the birth of a star in Rock, as Kebbell unleashes a wild-card performance from his gnarly gut. When he's on screen, it's impossible to look away.
And that's impressive when you consider the eye-catching insanity Ritchie attempts in Rock. One Two and Mumbles pull off the most gentle carjacking you'll see on screen this year. Later, they endure the longest (and strangest) footrace, as they are relentlessly pursued by unstoppable Russian war veterans. It's one of many scenes played for big laughs.
Ritchie has gone back to writing lyrical dialogue, tough-guy poetry delivered by a hardened but extremely polished cast. And for the first time in a long time, you can understand almost every spoken word. Butler's quite at home in Ritchie's underbelly. Newton manages to be more than eye candy, and Kebbell's an exhilarating treat.
Near the end of the film, I realized I was going to miss these original characters. So, apparently, is Ritchie. A brazen title card dropped before the credits promises more adventures with Archie, Johnny, and the Wild Bunch. Even more good news for fans of Ritchie and RocknRolla.
Aka Rock N Rolla.
We're gonna rock thiis tunnel, rock it inside out.
Run time: 114 mins
In Theaters: Friday 31st October 2008
Box Office USA: $5.7M
Box Office Worldwide: $24.5M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures/Dark Castle
Production compaines: Warner Bros. Pictures, Dark Castle Entertainment, Toff Guy Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 59%
Fresh: 86 Rotten: 60
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Director: Guy Ritchie
Screenwriter: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Mark Strong as Archy, Tom Wilkinson as Lenny Cole, Toby Kebbell as Johnny Quid, Gerard Butler as One-Two, Tom Hardy as Handsome Bob, Idris Elba as Mumbles, Karel Roden as Uri Omovich, Thandie Newton as Stella, Matt King as Cookie, Gemma Arterton as June, Jeremy Piven as Roman, Jimi Mistry as Councillor, Jamie Campbell Bower as Rocker, Nonso Anozie as Tank, Charlotte Armer as Nurse, Ludacris as Mickey
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