Guy Ritchie takes a lot of flack. Some of it is deserved, some of it isn’t. The fact that Madonna does annoying and irritating things isn’t his fault, and we can’t blame him for it. On the other hand, he definitely likes to act more cockney and more gentlemanly than he is (often at the same time) makes him look like a bit of twat. However, there’s one thing that must be said for him – more often than not, he knows how to tell a ripping yarn.
RocknRolla, one must admit, is a pretty damn good yarn, and it ticks almost every single box that makes Ritchie’s film distinctive: a large, ensemble cast; complex, intertwining storylines; a narrator (in this case Mark Strong as Archie); a McGuffin that ties most of the plots together; flowery, colourful and distinctly cockney dialogue; and a decent number of laugh-out-loud moments. (Only the Jason Statham box remains unticked.)
The McGuffin this time out is a painting (never revealed to us, a la Pulp Fiction's glowing briefcase), owned by a London-dwelling, football-club-owning Russian oligarch. (This character is so much like Roman Abramovich that the "any resemblance to persons living or dead" disclaimer at the end of the film exists primarily to keep him from suing. The actor who plays him even looks like him.) The painting gets loaned to Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson), the film's "villain a den of thieves", before being stolen from his home by his step-son and junkie rocker, Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell).
However, our "heroes" of the piece are Gerard Butler's One Two, and his gang The Wild Bunch, consisting of Mumbles (Idris Elba) and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy). Butler does extremely well in his role, bringing exactly the right mix of toughness, cheekiness and humanity to the role. Wilkinson is a believable monster in his role as Lenny Cole, portraying a terrifying mixture of greed, selfishness, arrogance and heartlessness.
However, as with all of Ritchie's (good) films, the real strength comes through the right mixture of all the elements of a Ritchie film, a RocknRolla just about manages this. It may not be quite as good as Snatch or Lock, Stock..., but it comes pretty close.
A solid return to form for Ritchie, with everything that one would expect from that. Not the best film of the year by any stretch, but one of its most enjoyable. B+.