American gangsters are so boring.
This is a flick about a Russian mobster (Karel Roden) who orchestrates a crooked land deal, millions of dollars are up for grabs, and all of London’s criminal underworld wants in on the action. Everyone from a dangerous crime lord (Tom Wilkinson) to a sexy accountant (Thandie Newton), a corrupt politician (Jimi Mistry) and down-on-their-luck petty thieves (Gerard Butler, Tom Hardy, and Idris Elba) conspire, collude and collide with one another in an effort to get rich quick.
After giving us two turkeys in-a-row like the ultra sappy, soap-fest that was known as Swept Away and the oddly slow and philosophical brain-take that was Revolver, Guy Ritchie was finally back to his old-ways in showing us gangsters that did bad things, said very funny things, and also, found themselves in some crazy situations that somehow connect to other gangsters that only live a couple of blocks down the street from them. Say what you will about it being conventional and nothing new for Ritchie to explore, but just be happy that he wasn’t doing another movie with his honey-at-the-moment, Madonna and making us watch as Jason Statham screamed his arse off for over an hour and some odd minutes. Yeah, be happy you damn people.
Going back to his old roots may piss some people off because it’s nothing and nothing original we haven’t already seen from the dude, but Ritchie isn’t worried about that and instead, allows us to have a great time as much as he must have been making this movie. There’s a lot of goofy-stuff here with comedy coming-out in places you would have never expected and even some violent spots that just so happen to make us laugh but no matter what, Ritchie always adds in his style of wit that makes this flick seem all the more jokey, no matter how much it may try and be serious. You really can’t take a Ritchie flick seriously and even when this movie actually does try to do so, you don’t really buy into it and just realize that it’s better if you don’t pay attention to any of those aspects at all and pay attention to the finer things in life, as well as this movie.
The finer things in this movie is definitely the plot and just where the hell it goes, where it stops, where it changes, and so-on-and-so-forth. This is typical Ritchie: setting-up a plot for us, giving us all of the characters we need to know, let us know what they do, what the stakes are, and just let it all roll-out as if it was just one, huge Domino game. You start to see how a certain group of characters are effected by another group of characters and it almost never stops, especially with all of the damn twists and turns that Ritchie seems to take, yet, they never get old. Ritchie always knows when to say “enough” and rather than just continue to pile-up on the plot twists and have things get spiced-up a bit more, as well as more convoluted he lets everything settle-in and have it become familiar to us, and then throw in another twist or turn, here and there just for good measure. Seriously, as much fun as it may be for us to actually watch this flick, it seems like it wasn’t even more fun for Guy to make it and that’s something that we all felt like we missed for the longest time. Glad to have you back, Guy. Now stay the hell away from that talent-sucker we all know as Madonna!
I think the biggest misstep for Ritchie here, as a writer and director, is that he never really pays all that much attention to every character the way they should have been payed attention to. For instance, in all of his other flicks, each and every single character was given a great-amount of screen-time that just so happened to fly-in whenever another character would show-up and become apart of their story-line, as well. However, here, in this flick, certain characters get the most attention, for the longest time, and then they stay there, only to ruin other story-lines of other characters. It isn’t that bad right from the start, mainly because all of the stories are fun and interesting to-watch, but once the film starts to focus on a bunch of other characters that haven’t been seen in awhile, you start to realize you don’t care all that much about them and it continues this way, until every story-line, in typical, Ritchie-fashion, finds themselves convulsing into a weird, but exciting finale.
It’s a trip that’s fun to take and ride-on, but it’s a bit messy and when it’s all said and done, you’re not really sure how it worked or even if it did. Heck, it’s almost like Ritchie was able to distract us all with his non-stop camera and writing tricks that he always has up his sleeve, and almost makes us forget that underneath the surface, is a very sloppily-made flick that forgets about certain-aspects that work, but remembers clearly the ones that don’t. I don’t know, maybe I was the only nut who was thinking that while watching this but either way, it definitely seemed a bit-off to me but also showed me that Ritchie is always the man to be trusted in terms of making a fun, entertaining flick, no matter how derivative it may be.
However, the familiarity of the style and story didn’t bother me all that much, especially when you take into account the quality-cast that he’s working with here. Gerard Butler is pretty solid as One Two, a tough-as-nails crook that always has a flair for wit, but also allows himself to be on the butt-end of a joke in terms of how he’s viewed-at as a tough-guy, that can also be a tad sensitive. If only Butler continued to take good roles like this nowadays, then we wouldn’t have shite-boxes like Playing for Keeps or Chasing Mavericks. That’s only a small list, though. Playing his two partners-in-crime are Idris Elba and a very skinny Tom Hardy, and as good as they both are, they aren’t really given a whole bunch to do that really makes them stand-out among the rest like Butler, even if Hardy’s character is a bit on the flip-side of the bed, if you know what I mean.
Out of the whole-cast, the one who really steals this whole movie from underneath his wing is Tom Wilkinson as the old school gangster that does things his own, vicious way. Wilkinson seems to be having a ball as the mean and cruel gangster that doesn’t seem to put-up with anybody’s shite, no matter how heated or reasonable it is. Wilkinson never really gets to play evil-like characters such as these, so to see him have an absolute ball with it, was an absolute ball just to watch it. Playing his partner-in-crime is a fun and terribly-quirky mobster played by Mark Strong, who is really good at playing these types of roles, and is even better with his cheeky narration that supplies most of the film’s humor throughout.
I think the one performance I was really bummed-out by was Thandie Newton as Stella, the accountant that sort of starts all this shite between these countless blokes. She starts off strong, smart, and sexy, and seems like a huge-departure for Ritchie to have in one of his flicks since all of his characters are mainly just a bunch of fellows that do shit the old school, gangster way, but after awhile, turns into the type of character you’d expect her to be and it’s a bit of a bummer because she really had a lot of promise going for her. It was sort of like she was just there to move the plot along and as much as Ritchie may have gotten his wish fulfilled on that aspect, it still feels like a bit of a shame, considering he was really brewing on something here.
Consensus: Though it treads familiar-territory for Ritchie, RocknRolla is still a crap-load of fun that’s filled with witty characters, surprising twists and turns that you rarely ever see coming, and an ensemble cast that always seems game to work.
6.5 / 10 = Rental!!