10 June 2010 | Spikeopath
Don't worry. He can't defend himself - he's got no head.
When a land deal goes wrong for One Two (Gerard Butler) and Mumbles (Idris Elba) they have to steal seven large to pay back underworld fixer Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson). Aided by accountant Stella (Thandie Newton) they make the hit and think that's the end of the matter. Only it isn't because now the can is open and there is worms every where. Worms involving a shady Russian business man, his favourite painting and a junkie rock star who keeps on dying!.
It's interesting viewing RocknRolla now just after Guy Ritchie's reinvention of Sherlock Holmes has put him back on the flavour of the month list. For at the time of its release Ritchie was on the back of a couple of critical bombs and was of course then known as Mr Madonna. The press and the film critics seemingly revelling in giving the bright director a good old cockney kicking after putting him on a pedestal with the success of the Lock, Stock and Snatch movies. Don't get me wrong, Swept Away is awful and Revolver, while not being the cess pool of vomit some would have you believe, is just too much labyrinthine plotting around a poor narrative story. But had Ritchie lost his mojo in 2008? Is it true that he got lucky with his cockernee gangster forays?.
Well what we know to be true is that Ritchie is comfortable back on the shady London manor that is at the heart of RocknRolla. Cynics will say he has played safe and returned to the formula that made him. Yeah, so what? A return to form is a return to form is it not? Besides which, if one is prepared to delve deep and examine RocknRolla, you will find that it's more polished than both Lock, Stock and Snatch; with a far better cast of actors able to fully realise the zippy structure and material of the piece. No! Ritchie is no great story teller yet, and judging by the plot of Sherlock Holmes, he's unable to spot a duff story either. Yet the vigour, vibrancy, and all round geezerness of RocknRolla is bountiful as a ream of charismatic characters all have stories within the story. Ritchie returning to gangland territory with guns, gags and sexual energy is a good thing. It really is.
The cast are uniformly strong. The roll call contains Mark Strong, Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Tom Hardy, Thandie Newton, Jeremy Piven, Jimmy Mistry, Idris Alba, Chris Bridges and Gemma Arteton. All of whom seem to enjoy being in "that type" of Guy Ritchie movie. But it's Toby Kebbell as junkie rock star Johnny Quid that shines the brightest. He's no stranger to fans of harder edged British cinema, his brilliant turn in Dead Man's Shoes often gets forgotten because of Paddy Considine's much lauded turn in that film. While Wilderness, and then Control, further pushed him forward as a major British talent. Here he covers many bases in character while the material lets him slyly dig at the music industry and link it feral like to the underworld. A terrific turn from a terrific young actor.
With a kicking soundtrack that includes the likes of The Clash, The Hives, The Subways, Lou Reed and The Sonics, it's not just the crime caper plot that positively pings. There's some links to Pulp Fiction, a painting we never see echoes the running suitcase gag, while a wonderful dance sequence between Butler and Newton of course nods to Uma & John. But it's fine, this is Ritchie's world and its fun, sexy and cunningly dangerous. 8/10