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Review: RocknRolla (2008)

A little slower and more evenly paced than other Guy Ritchie films, RocknRolla is yet another fun, London crime caper with a host of interesting characters, from drugged out rock stars to dangerously sexy accountants. Archy (Mark Strong), the film’s narrator, is the efficient second-in-command to Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson), an old school geezer about to make a dirty land deal with Russian billionaire Uri Omovich (Karel Roden). As a gesture of goodwill, Uri gives Lenny his lucky painting to hold on to while he asks his accountant Stella (Thandie Newton) to withdraw £7 million for the deal. Stella secretly betrays Uri by hiring small time gangster One-Two (Gerard Butler) and his team, the Wild Bunch, to steal the money. Coincidentally, One-Two and his partner-in-crime Mumbles (Idris Elba) owe Lenny money so they happily take the job. Lenny’s junkie stepson and rock star Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell, who, by the way, looks a lot like Theo James) lifts Uri’s painting from his stepfather’s house, having taken a liking to the work, and goes into hiding, having faked his own death for record sales and for his own enjoyment. With the painting and £7 million gone, Lenny and Uri scramble to hide the information from the one another and track down the people responsible for their sudden losses.

Interconnected by criminal plots and equal levels of cleverness and competence, the dizzying extremes of the worlds of rich gangsters Lenny and Uri and of the seedy Wild Bunch mix very well together. Oddly, Tom Wilkinson’s lynchpin baddie lacks true grit (I mean, death by crayfish? That’s pretty ludicrous, and side note: rapper Ludacris is in the movie), making all the characters seem tonally about the same; as a result, the film lacks much-needed tension. The most interesting character is Johnny Quid, who, between bouts of violence and substance abuse, occasionally waxes poetic, demonstrating a wealth of acute intelligence and talent hidden behind the character’s haze of debauchery, making him the star of RocknRolla. (Also, it should be noted that Tom Hardy plays a character named Handsome Bob. That is all.) Stella and One-Two’s chemistry simmers but does not quite boil over, though they still make quite an attractive pair. The film’s deliberate treatment of the Uri’s painting, which is admired by many characters but never actually shown to the viewer, is a tantalizingly fun add-on.

Although RocknRolla lacks his usual frenetic style, Ritchie once again has fun playing with crime, coincidence, and character to bring us a satisfyingly entertaining film and, hopefully, a future trilogy.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 pistol-shaped cigarette lighters

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