He’s back! Guy Ritchie has atoned for his cinematic sins and then some with the incomparable RocknRolla, a tight, fast and adrenalised journey into London’s local and Russian mob.
Ritchie is in top form again, the way we remember him most vividly, as the man who made Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, nearly ten years ago. It’s been a while but the wait is worth it.
Ritchie’s taken the camera and stretched it to new lengths, varying speeds, cutting, rhythm and look, treating cinema as it should be treated, as an infinitely interesting art form.
The subject matter’s old as the hills, but Ritchie’s made it faster, funnier and more visceral than any other gangland drama in a long while. It’s nearly over stimulating but in the best possible cinematic way.
RocknRolla boasts one of the greatest and most surprising sex scenes of all time, giving away either an innate distrust of sex, or a need to put it in its place.
Ritchie has gathered an unexpected knockout of a cast featuring film unknown Tobey Kebbell in a searing portrayal of a cross-addicted and devilishly clever Rockstar.
He towers over two poor Yankee fish dangerously out of their element, played by Jeremy Piven and Chris Bridges a.k.a. Ludacris. Gerard Butler plays the most pleasant gangster hitman ever to appear in a film, with Idris Elba as his likeable partner.
Thandie Newton is a cold-as-ice gangland boss, Mark Strong as a deadly but debonair mob boss (can Strong not be debonair?) and the inimitable Tom Wilkinson as an over the hill crime lord, stymied by the new methods of the Russians who’ve taken over the London real estate market.
Supporting side characters are fascinating, many of them seemingly inspired by Dickens’ characters. It’s the same London underbelly Dickens and Ritchie inhabit.
A young showman and his mute, male or female sidekick put on fashion shows of stolen merchandise in the gang’s lair with the flair of Wild Bill Hickok crossed with Fagin’s best boy. Gangsters of every age, leaning, moral angle and nationality bring richness to the world of RocknRolla.
There is a constant sense of gunfire, whether actual or in the way scenes are shot. The film feels like automatic gunfire, with a hard-hitting beat and people mowed down like so much wheat.
A sensational ten-minute chase scene finds Butler running for his life from a tough mofo of a Russian hitman. The Russian is wounded and nearly killed repeatedly but keeps on getting up and bearing down on our hero. Or the closest thing there is to a hero in this film.
The ending leaves few surprises about Ritchie’s hopes for it; its clear there will be a sequel and if there isn’t, well, why not? Can’t wait to get the blood pumping, RocknRolla style again.
Ritchie appears to have picked himself up off the ground following the disappointments of Swept Away and Revolver. Hopefully, he’ll carry the spirit along to Sherlock Holmes.
He’ll follow the Robert Downey Jr. starrer with a World War II drama Sgt. Rock and an adaptation of the comic book Gamekeeper.
Unfortunately, there is no official listing for a sequel to RocknRolla, but we can hope.
35mm crime thriller
Written and directed by Guy Ritchie
Opens Oct 8
Runtime: 114 minutes
MPAA: Rated R for pervasive language, violence, drug use and brief sexuality