November 7, 2008

Movie Review: RocknRolla

rocknrolla2_largeBased on the trailers I was really looking forward to the latest Guy Ritchie film. I cannot claim to be the biggest fan of the guy, although both Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch are both quite good, I have not seen Swept Away, Revolver or any of his other works. So, there I went, into the darkened theater filled with what seemed to be like-minded individuals. The deeper into the film we all got, you could begin to get a sense of what the audience was thinking, you could here the enthusiasm bubble over in a few areas as the vocal few gave sound to their approvals. Then there was me. Enjoying myself, sure, but not as much as I had expected not as much as the brave souls who wanted all to be aware of their enjoyment.

RocknRolla is Guy Ritchie's return to the multi-leveled Brit-gangster genre that he made his early name with. Although I have not seen his other recent films, they have not been received all that well by the critical community, it does seem that this is Ritchie's big return to the American cineplex. I guess the million dollar question is if it is worth checking out. The answer is a decidedly non-committal yes and no.

rocknrolla1The plot is a multi-threaded affair that involves a bit of old-school versus new-school gangster battle with millions of dollars in real estate money at stake. Russians are moving in on London territory and need the help of local kingpin Lenny (Tom Wilkinson). He is needed to grease the local palms in order to get the necessary development deals in place.

This also brings in the Russians accountant, Stella (Thandie Newton), to make the necessary millions disappear from the books. This leads to Stella playing both sides, involving the Wild Bunch. The Wild Bunch is a group of lower level hoods One Two (Gerard Butler) and Mumbles (Idris Elba).

Not to be left out, there is also the case of a valuable painting lent by Uri, the Russian boss, to Lenny. This brings in rocker Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbel) and his managers played by Jeremy Piven and Chris Bridges.

All of these threads, the land acquisition, development deals, stolen money, missing painting, all weave together into a finale that concludes the story but promises a return in a sequel. Now, whether or not that sequel gets made is up in the air, but I am certainly interested in the possibility.

rocknrolla2Now, I know that I have not really given a full-fledged description of the film is about, that is really something you need to find out for yourself should you choose to step into the theater.

I cannot say this was a great movie. It is also borderline if it is even a good movie. Despite all of that, it needs to be said that this is an impressive film, even without ever feeling connected to the lives of the characters.

The gangster genre is not a new one, it is one that has been mined for all sorts of drama, suspense, and thrills for decades. It is a genre that can be used by anyone looking to tell a story, not needing to be terribly inventive to be a half way decent film. What makes RocknRolla stand out is the visual flair that Guy Ritchie infuses it with. That is his true talent. The man knows how to inject life into the look of the film and this movie certainly has style to spare. Yes, it is flashy, but not overly so. It is reason enough to give this film a shot.

RocknRolla is a gangster film with a visual flourish that keeps the eyes involved. There is a seamless, easy flow that does not allow the viewer to lose track of the various threads as they move along their paths. This wonderful flow and style, combined with the chemistry of the cast is enough to make this at the very lease a mild recommendation. What drags it down, again, is the fact that I did not connect with any of the characters. I did not really care what happened to them.

Bottomline. Mediocre film that is worth a peek but is not up to the level of his early works. Watch it for the flow and the style, avoid it for the character and development.

Mildly Recommended.


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