Here I finally sit forcing myself to write only because I enjoyed Guy Ritchie’s new movie RocknRolla so much! A little rusty and I saw the movie about a month ago, so bear with me.
You may remember his other films Lock, Stock and two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, both enjoyable but somewhat flimsy models of what cool is (Brad Pitt was the best part of Snatch). For every great portion or moment there was an equally awkward and heavy handed moment that showed Ritchie to be a purveyor of style but lacked the true tools to tell a completely engaging story. I haven’t even found the time to watch his complete misfires Revolver or Swept Away. Alas, I am here to proclaim to you that RocknRolla may simply be one of the most enjoyable movies I’ll see this year.
Tom Wilkinson plays a surly London crime boss that has his hands in the pockets of property development, illegal development of course. Properties that normally would not be able to pass the cities codes, but with the right money in the right pockets he’s able to get passed. He’s the “old school”. A bat too the knee here and a convertible there will solve every problem.
Then comes in a Russian player, looking to build a stadium (if I recall correctly), and wanting to use the services of the “old school”. He, however, represents the ways of the “new school”. Basically a classier way of approaching things the old way. They don’t use a bat to make a point, but a golf club. They are international. They don’t growl and bark…the coerce.
Both crudding things up and smoothing things over in the middle are the “wild bunch” a group of for-hire-hoodlums that inevitibly end up working for and against both sides. The most exemplary of said group is One Two played by Gerard Butler, as a feisty and charasmatic hood that doesn’t quite know what he’s gotten himself involved in when he’s hired to steal money that is supposed to finance that multi million dollar deal. Butler is great and shows promise of Harrison Ford proportions. And his pal Mumbles, played by Idris Elba of HBO’sThe Wire fame is slick and just damn cool.
And crudding it up even more is the son of Tom Wilkinson. A rock ‘n roll junkie presumed dead, but much alive.
As everyone circles the multi million dollar deal brought in by the “new school” you watch in amazement at how Richie deftly handles all of the colorful characters…strung together sometimes by the thinnest of threads. The least important characters weave into the bigger spectrum beautifully creating a tapestry of this underworld offshoot so rich that with every line of dialogue and scene explored you’re drawn in without realizing it. Scenes that seem to have no effect on the main thrust of the story, sneak in and surprisingly change the whole outcome of the film. Making this simple gangster flick much more complex.
It’s not just about a deal gone wrong, or how money and greed kills all. One of the more interesting stories is a piece of art that quickly becomes more crucial than the property deal that’s going on, and from there, secrets are revealed and power changes hands, and the main character emerges from the froth of intersecting secondary characters. It’s about the “old school” disappearing, and an even newer school being born. It’s quiet and epic, sexy and gritty all in the same breath. What gangster movies should be!
Richie doesn’t rely on violence to thrill us, many times he cuts away and the violence is off screen. It can only mean one thing, that hyperstylized director writer that I began the review writing about has become a fully realized incredibly mature storyteller. Using that style not to just kick the story forward but to accentuate the characters and articulate the dark abcess of human addiction. I wait with giddy anticipation for his next film. (Which I guess is going to be Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr.)