Toronto Review: Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla
by Alex Billington
September 4, 2008
Guy Ritchie has done it again. RocknRolla is yet another Ritchie classic like we've seen twice before with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in 1998 and Snatch in 2000. It may not exactly top either of those two in content, but it's certainly the best British gangster film in the last eight years, which says a lot. Plus it doesn't hurt to add another great film to the Ritchie library, especially one with such a genuinely entertaining line-up of actors. In short, RocknRolla boasts that same brilliant visual style that Ritchie is known for, as well as a deceitful story as sharp as the one from Snatch. Whether you end up liking the story or not, there's no denying that Ritchie is a talented filmmaker capable of pure entertainment.
Focusing on two smalltime crooks named One Two (Gerard Butler) and Mumbles (Idris Elba), RocknRolla delves into the British underworld like we've seen before in Ritchie's films, but this time it's a big-time businessman named Lenny (Tom Wilkinson), who thinks he runs London, that becomes the ball in this nasty Rugby match. Before long, Russian billionaire Uri (Karel Roden) loans Lenny his lucky painting, it ends up stolen by the supposedly dead rockstar Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell), and the entire allotment of London's gangsters and crooks get wrapped up in a complex game of cat-and-mouse in the search for the painting. It's not the smoothest plot in Ritchie's history, but in the end it pulls itself together.
To call RocknRolla a British version of The Godfather wouldn't be inaccurate, although I'm not going to reveal all of what makes the two so similar. Guy Ritchie movies are almost an acquired taste - with so much style, it's hard to find the substance unless you know where to look. But all that I love about Ritchie's films shined through in RocknRolla. When Lenny says that it costs an arm and a leg, in a Guy Ritchie movie, he literally means an arm and a leg, with bloody ruthlessness and all. That kind of sharp-witted humor and brutal realism fills up RocknRolla to the gills, but just sitting back and enjoying Ritchie's cinematic style will help you overcome the rough spots in the complex story.
I won't necessarily say that RocknRolla is any better than Snatch, which still remains my all-time favorite Ritchie film, but there were numerous moments of genius in RocknRolla that rivaled it. Like a cross-country road trip with your friends, there are scenes that are slow and tedious, and others that are so energetic and vibrant, that it creates a dynamic that Ritchie fans will hopefully find as entertaining as I did. As with Snatch as well, the climax near the end needs to be unforgettable, and in RocknRolla it certainly is – you'll never look at Russian thugs and Gerard Butler the same again - and you won't soon forget it. This film isn't out to win an Oscar, but it is still stylistic cinematic entertainment at its best.
Toronto Rating: 9 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 10 Comments
As long as it is Ritchie not trying to screw with our heads it should be great. He is a good director. His last few movies however, disappointed me. I probably will call this a rental just in case.
Kyle A. Koyote on Sep 4, 2008
I loved Snatch, I am looking forward to this!
Breach on Sep 4, 2008
Not a fan of SEXY BEAST? Glad to hear this rocks though.
BurmaShave on Sep 4, 2008
Lock Stock and Two Somking Barrells awesome, Snatch awesome, Revlover, a good mind test, RocknRolla a must see,for Ritchie fans!
Xerxex on Sep 4, 2008
I can't wait for this movie! Guy Ritchie has never let me down, even on his BMW commercials. This movie is what I've been waiting for since Revolver.
Mike Deez on Sep 5, 2008
Why are you comparing this to the Godfather? There is no way this thing is as good. It's a dead simple premise, and it never delves deeper than the surface - loads of characters are left out to dry with their characteristics and behaviours only being lightly toyed with. The story was actually rather boring and thus I didnt give a shit for the characters. The only thing that kept me entertained was the sideshow of the gay gangster.. best bits in the movie. The film is definitely weaker than Lock Stock and Snatch, and the media advertisements lead you to think its gonna be another roller coaster ride - nope! Most of the action can be seen in the trailer, there was too much crap talk filling in the time for a simple idea. The film needed some serious pacing adjustments. Finally, I've come to the conclusion that Guy is a one trick pony - I wouldn't bank on him.
dom on Sep 6, 2008
I absolutely love "Lock, Stock, and Two Smokin' Barrels". I'm excited to catch this one.
Will S. (Co Springs) on Sep 6, 2008
Truly one of the worst films ever released to the general public. The attempt to create a story with clever twists of fate that are believable a la lock stock snatch etc, which are hardly consistent or believable anyway, falls flat on its face as the story and plot is boring and retarded relying on the imagery to carry it through. Unlike the imagery and situations in lock stock and snatch which at times are inspirational and stylish with a finger on the pulse of the London underworld culture with its occasional flashes of glamour and unique behaviour, that at times excite and enthrall the viewer with a window into the possibilities of rebellious and progressive minds, this film repels the intelligent viewer with its shallow and weak attempt at gritty storytelling. Not at any time do you get any depth of insight into any of the characters, and instead the film relies on a slew of big names or so called hot or edgy actors which one feels begin perhaps, as the acting process went on to feel embarrassed to have signed up for the film and surely will be dissapointed to have been involved in the finished product.At times the film was genuinely uncomfortable to watch as the director failed miserably at creating stylish scenes which vividly showed a lack of understandind of what the modern intelligent audience wants to see.The film fails to obey the rules of movie making which allow you to compare a film to reality and to judge it, and without this factor in all serious films the characters from the godfather might as well have been able to fly and fire bullets out of their arseholes.To sum the film up,basically its a self indulgent orgy of unimportant imagery with no inspirational moral message and almost no cohesive content with laughable performances and ends up being a jerking comedic farce which the director should be ashamed of.As a Londoner and someone that would like to have viewed further insight into parts of the at times genuinely exciting and seldom seen street culture of the city, the film doesn't Im afraid even deserve this review.Well done to Guy Ritchie for providing groundbreaking content in some of his other films,not for this.
Owen on Sep 8, 2008
Just watched this movie and was massively disappointed. The acting was attrocious, no doubt a result of bad directing and an ambiguous to non existing poor storyline. It was painfull to sit through and was evidently a bad film from the word go. The reviews say its Guy Richies big come back and his greatest yet. And after the last few flops, like Revolver, a come back was much needed. If this is the best Richie can do, it shows he realy is out of touch, and should probably try something else. Lock stock and Snach were great. This was just terrible. Avoid wasting your time. I was offended that such crap could be turfed out on the public. If it was an attempt at incorporating humour, it backfired bigtime.
Barry on Sep 8, 2008
Seems this movie isnt to everyone's taste. I saw it last night (a little late considering it came out nearly a month ago now) and enjoyed it from start to finish. While Richie's double crossings are as expected as M. Night Shyamalan's twists, it's still fun to get swept along with the film. There were plenty of scenes which I could easly watch over an over, and humour you can take out into the real life. One thing I didnt like was using the Subways and 'Rock'n'Roll Queen'. Love the band but t seems when a director wants an adreniline pumping british scene, that music is too often used. Film 8/10 in my eyes. Can wait for the sequels (not often people say that these days with the stupid-as sequels emerging)
Marcus on Oct 1, 2008
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