By Andrea Warner
A sonic assault, whiplash editing, naked male torsos, and more English accents than a Shakespearean theatre school can only mean one thing: Guy Ritchie’s returned to gang-banger form.
RocknRolla is unmistakably Ritchie, with all the pros and cons that go along with it. This effort feels like his personal mea culpa for going soft, and everyone (government, mobsters, upper and lower classes, junkies) is a target.
Ritchie’s signature is a main story arc that serves as Grand Central Station to the movie’s many subplots. Here, a real-estate scam goes awry, pitting One Two’s (an uneven Gerard Butler) band of toughies against Lenny’s (the deliciously vicious Tom Wilkinson) high-rolling gangsters. Also in the mix: a Russian businessman obsessed with getting back his lucky painting; Stella (Thandie Newton), a femme fatale accountant pulling the puppet strings on a major heist; and Johnny Quid (scary stand-out Toby Kebbel), Lenny’s drug addict, rock-star stepson. Ritchie’s London underworld runs rampant with coincidences, old confidences, and plenty of double-crosses. It’s one of the pleasures of the film to watch the seemingly random pieces fit together in the final 10 minutes.
Less pleasurable are some of the fourth-string stories that limp alongside the action — particularly the gay-character contrivance that seems to serve less as a major plot point and more about debunking the allegations that Ritchie’s secretly a homophobe. Butler’s character is even forced to utter the line, “It’s okay if you’re a poof.”
High on style, low on substance, and not a revelation by Ritchie standards, RocknRolla nonetheless shows he still knows how to put on a decent show.