Film review by: Witney Seibold



            Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) is a high-roller in the London underworld. He makes his money by lending money to people who want to buy land he already owns, and then stealing it back before they can buy said property, then deamind that they come up with the money anyway. That way he has his own money, his own land, and the money the poor borrowers have to pay back. Easy.


            Three London thugs wants a €7 million parcel of land, and get caught up in Lenny’s scheme. The thugs are One-Two (Gerard Butler), Mumbles (Idris Elba), and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy). They have their own racket going, in that they plan on stealing the money they owe to Lenny. They’re also active players in small-time crimes, and are seen in seedy gambling halls, and occasionally transporting suitcases of money for well-dressed people.


            There is a Russian crime boss named Uri (Karel Roden) who also wants land from Lenny, and Lenny plans to give him the usual runaround. However, as a sign of good faith (which he clearly doesn’t genuinely feel, and is more of a leveraging tool on his own part) Uri lends Lenny his “lucky painting” as a kind of collateral. Of course, the painting is soon stolen. What’s worse, the money that Uri was going to pay Lenny was stolen not by Lenny’s thugs, but by One-Two and his crew.


            Following me so far?


            Also involved is Lenny’s feckless stepson, a would-be Sid Vicious type named Johnny Quid (Toby Kebell) who takes less drugs than Vicious did, but who is just as much of an arsehole. He is described as a true rocknrolla. Johnny is missing, and Lenny enlists his two American record producers (Ludacris and Jeremy Piven) to find him.


            Oh, and did I mention Uri’s two-faced accountant Stella (Thandie Newton), who is acting as a double agent between Uri and One-Two? Well, she’s in here too.


            Is it me, or does this sound like the plot of a P.G. Wodehouse novel, only with criminals instead of society gents?


            So, yeah, what with the wacky names, colorful underground characters, and forcefully oblique plotting, “RocknRolla” is just like any of director Guy Richie’s earlier films. I suppose how much you enjoy “RocknRolla” depends on how much you are familiar with, and how much you enjoyed, “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrells,” “Snatch,” and other films of that sort.



            “RocknRolla” is actually a lot easier to follow than Richie’s other films, and shows an aesthetic restraint unseen in his work before. He still likes to jerk around his audience, and mines humor from some pretty brutal violence, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction after his misguided films “Swept Away” and “Revolver.” To be fair, I did not see either of those films, but, between the two of them, have only heard one (1) positive recommendation between the two.


            In a way, “RocknRolla” is kind of quaint. Richie seems to be pretending that it is still 1997, and that this film will explode on the indie scene the same way “Smoking Barrels” did. Oh look! A character is gay! Oh wow! They giggle as smashed kneecaps! Look how over-the-top the strangely-named characters are!


             No, it’s not a bracing breath of fresh air. But, yes, it is still a pretty good film.

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

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