Film Reviews


By • Nov 16th, 2008 •

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Muscular girth. Mark Strong emerges as a sexy star.

Guy Ritchie must have had a St. Paul conversion (“What the hell are you doing with your life?”). Returning to his unique formula of exploiting the London gangster world with a punk sensibility, ROCKNROLLA celebrates the throbbing penis. And it’s not subliminal.

I didn’t notice one Kabbalah reference.

Who doesn’t love the London working class gangster, even if you only can make out forty percent of what they say? Following the blueprint of his biggest, breakthrough success to date (and I loved SNATCH), LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, Ritchie strings together inter-locking stories of mayhem built on confusion and double-and-triple-crossing shenanigans. LOCK, STOCK was about a missing gun. ROCKNROLLA is about a missing painting.

Angry, bitter mobster Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) keeps telling everyone he runs London. His primary game is fixing all the necessary pieces for allowing commercial construction without a hassle and years of putting plans before building committees. His right-hand man, elegant and handsome Archie (Mark Strong) narrates the tale for us. Cole loans money to low-level gangsters from the Wild Bunch, One-Two (Gerard Butler) and Mumbles (Idris Elba), to buy a building. It’s their plan to enter the big leagues and leave petty crime behind, but it’s a standard scam designed by Cole. The building plans collapse and they now owe Cole a lot of money. How will they get it?

A Russian billionaire, Uri (Karel Roden), wants to bypass the building permits red tape in London and to cement the deal with Cole, lends him his lucky painting. Uri’s accountant, Stella (Thandie Newton), arranges for the seed money to be sent to Cole. But Stella informs One-Two where and when the money is to be transferred. Meanwhile, Cole’s stepson, a drug addict rock star, falls off a yacht and is presumed dead. The Russian’s money is stolen, the “lucky painting” vanishes, and another member of the Wild Bunch is getting ready to do four years in prison.

Ritchie has found a terrific star in Mark Strong and indulges him in great scenes and leading man close-ups. And then there is Toby Kebbell, who lost 21 lbs by starving, to play a very realistic, nasty drug addict. Ritchie knows how to ramp up the chaos, Cole’s fury, and enough London gay life to put to rest he’s homophobic (in real life).

Wilkinson is, as always, terrific. He understands that Cole is just furious for no good reason and hates life. Ritchie gives his low-key star, Gerard Butler, a humorous scene, as well as highlighting his dancing abilities. Every guy will want to dance like Butler (while quoting him from 300). The climax is a terrific scene where the Wild Bunch is chased by Uri’s henchmen. Of course, where would a gangster movie be without a novel torture scene? Oh, and the soundtrack is pulsating. It should be sold as the perfect music to play while having anonymous sex.

Now that Ritchie has returned to form, let’s see how sexy and tough he can make Sherlock Holmes.

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