Ah good old Guy Ritchie. Back in the 90s he gave us gangster-cool, a wave of swift talking swaggering cock-er-nies who dabble in crime and are dapper at coming up with sharp put-downs. Lock Stock was a roaring success, Snatch was a pretty good romp, but then it all went downhill. “A Guy Ritchie film” stopped being something cool, and was more “Swept Away”.
But with Rocknrolla Ritchie has clawed his way back to Lock Stock heights. This is punchy, cheeky fun, Ritchie almost creating his own genre that consists of numerous characters, several plot strands that overlap and interlink in slightly unbelievable ways, a cockney narrator, a contemporary soundtrack, and jazzy bits of direction. To explain the plot would take forever, but rest assured it contains your usual head boss gangster dude, some side-kicks, a raggedy gang of goons who you’re supposed to side with, and a scary foreign boss man. But no Jason Stratham, which must always count against a film surely?
Stepping up to the play in the mighty Stratham’s place is Tom Wilkinson (awesome as usual), Gerard Butler (the shouty chap from 300, who is suitably easy on the eyes), Mark Strong (could fit in the cast of the Godfather easily) and Idris Elba (the ace chappy otherwise known as Stringer Bell from the Wire, woefully underused). There’s also an exciting skeleton-off between Thandie Newton’s unbelievable “accountant” and Toby Kebbell who cuts an impressive figure as the rocknrolla (that’s what the title is – clever, yeah?) This is a guy who is both insane, dangerously violent but also amazing adept at the English language.
Some might say that the uber cool nature of the likes of Lock Stock glamorises crime and drugs and violence. Rocknrolla may play up to that in places – comedy druggies, comedy violence (the Russians who just won’t die) and comedy car thefts. But there’s also a neat blast of darkness, with an unpleasantly long scene featuring said rocknrolla drugged up to his eyeballs and therefore dribbling and convulsing on the floor, and an attack on a bouncer that's flinchingly violent and not all too impossible in today’s society (or yesterday’s society – we’ve been beating the crap out of each other for as long as we could hold tools).
This is, if you try to take it seriously, a bit shit really. Nonsense plot, unbelievable characters. Silly nonsense. But taken as a blast of entertainment it hits the mark dead-on. Amusing and engaging, it smacks of the 90s Ritchie, the one who was cool and not Madonna’s (now ex) hubbie. It’s Ritchie doing what he does best, and though there must come a point where he needs to drop the genre for fear of cliché, in this stage of the cinema calendar (which is as parched as a desert in the summer) it is welcome relief. Even though it’s been out quite a while, and is probably out of the cinema by the time you read this. In which case, why not catch it on DVD? For sheer entertainment it gets a recommended CF0.