Guy Ritchie has been in a slump that’s for sure. After creating instant classics like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, Ritchie went off and married Madonna. Since then his filmmaking has taken somewhat of a slide.
After wading through the crap of the awful Swept Away (2002), and the incomprehensible Revolver, Ritchie has finally found his way back to his old form with RocknRolla. Combing an interwoven plot, colorful characters, biting dialogue, and wickedly dark humor RocknRolla shows us that Ritchie still has it in him to make a great film (and that splitting up with Madonna only helped matters).
To begin to explain each of the characters in RocknRolla would take up more pages than I’m willing to write, and (most likely) you’re willing to read. To say there is a plethora of characters in this film is an understatement. The key is that they are all woven together. Each character connected to the other, if only by the slightest of event, yet those events will inexorably lead to the climax where it all comes together.
The plot. Well, the plot involves gangsters, money, real estate, a supposedly dead rock star and one very sought-after painting. The money and the painting pinball back and forth between the who’s who of the British underworld. Everyone is scamming everyone, and none of them actually know what to do to remedy the problem, but all of them are sure they are the ones with the answer. Sound confusing? Don’t worry, it is. But, it is extremely fun to watch as the story jumps around London like a jack rabbit on acid.
When I watch a film for the first time, and plan on writing about it after, I usually take notes. After getting a hand cramp 10 minutes into the film from furiously jotting down who was screwing who, and what was where I decided to give up and have fun watching it all play out.
RocknRolla sports an ensemble cast with actors Gerard Butler (One Two), Mark Strong (Archie), Tom Wilkinson (Lenny), and Thandie Newton (Stella). There’s even a few appearances by Jeremy Piven and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, who play music producers
It’s fun to watch British actors play gangsters. I don’t know why, but it is. Maybe it’s because they seem to be having so much fun playing them.
Presented in 1080p HD and a 2.4: 1 ratio, RocknRolla has a very stylized look to it. It was filmed digitally, and has been given a noir look. At some points all the color is drained out of the shot to make it appear sepia-toned. This isn’t a bad thing, because the HD handles the soft browns so delicately, they appear rich and smooth.
There are numerous shots of the London skyline, which are flawless. It gives you the feeling that you’re flying over the city itself. One of the most stunning examples of quality is when large buildings made completely of brick are shown. Brick is a pain for most films, because just a once over and the aliasing lines appear. Here you can’t detect even the slightest bit of it.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound only adds to the quality of the film. While the dialogue is front heavy, there are still a few moments where the full power of the audio is used. Machine guns, car wrecks, and the upbeat soundtrack sound great and use the rear channels to create that encompassing feeling. My favorite was the hustle and bustle of London itself, though. The rear channels are peppered with the ambiance of downtown London. At times it’s like you’re smack dab in the middle of Piccadilly Square.
The special features here are disappointing to say the least. One deleted scene, two extremely short featurettes and one commentary. That’s it.
The deleted scene features Gerard Butler, who plays One Two, running on a treadmill. It’s a slow scene, and you can see why it was removed from the film. With all the exposition going on in it, the scene felt like it was lifted from Revolver. It’s presented in widescreen, but not HD.
Both of the featurettes are presented in HD. The first featurette is called “Blokes, Birds and Backhanders: Inside RocknRolla.” This is mostly just a recap of the film. It’s actually a good starting point though. It’s very light on the spoilers, but helps you piece together the insane plot, which I’ve already mentioned is a beast to handle at times.
The other featurette is only 8 minutes and is called “Guy’s Town: The Director Reflects on His Fanscination with Ever-Evolving London.” This is more of a location scouting extra than anything else. It tells the story of how London is always changing and evolving. It’s interesting to see where some of the scenes were filmed, because I’ve been to some of those places, but overall this feature is too short. And at a paltry eight minutes it even copy and pastes some of the same footage from “Blokes, Birds and Backhanders.”
The commentary features Ritchie and Strong. They have a some good chemistry together and dryly joke around with each other in the first half of the film. Much of the information given by Ritchie is about the shooting locations of each scene. The commentary really starts to drag when Ritchie begins repeat lines of dialogue along with the characters. It gets really annoying at times, and makes him seem bored and uninterested.
A digital copy of the film is also included.
Ritchie fans of old, it is now okay to come out and once again embrace your beloved director. RocknRolla is a step in the right direction for him, and I was pleasantly teased by the possibility of a second RocknRolla, which is mentioned in the credits.