Is it better to be really good at one type of thing, or marginally good at a lot of different things? I’m trying to describe director Guy Ritchie’s movie-making style. He’s sorta like the cinematic version of a one-hit-wonder, having the most success with a certain type of movie. Ritchie excels at the frenetic ensemble crime drama, but has faltered when he’s ventured beyond his comfort zone in the recent past. In RocknRolla Ritchie returns to what he knows best, and that’s just fine with me. Versatility be damned.
His latest effort is in the same vein of Lock, Stock and Two Smokin’ Barrels and Snatch, both of which featured a hodgepodge crew pulling off a heist/caper of some sort. RocknRolla’s cast includes Gerard Butler (300) and Idris Elba (The Wire, American Gangster), who star as One Two and Mumbles, respectively. The pair owes money to a London businessman/gangster named Lenny Cole, played with relish by Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton). Lenny has an architecture deal pending with a Russian immigrant, and when the Russian’s money is stolen, the deal is in jeopardy. Unbeknownst to Lenny, Mumbles and One Two are unwittingly responsible for the theft. They were tipped off by the Russian’s accountant, and lifted the money in order to repay Lenny and settle their debt. In other words, they are paying Lenny with his own money. Meanwhile, the Russian is getting suspicious, and everything is inter-connected. The plot details aren’t important, as the movie has a life of its own, spinning from one scene to the next before you can catch your breath. Movies that rely heavily on inter-connected storylines sometimes require a suspension of belief as the characters’ lives overlap, but RocknRolla’s plot is plausible in that all of the characters operate in the same underworld, even if only tangentially. The movie had one silly sequence involving some very persistent hit men, but other than that everything was largely believable. Gerard Butler showed comedic flair, which was an impressive departure from his role in 300. I also enjoyed watching Idris Elba speak in his natural accent. He was so good as Stringer Bell on The Wire that you might forget he’s not American. I’m partial to British gangster movies, so I viewed RocknRolla through the prism of my own preference, but I thought it was good. If you liked Ritchie’s earlier work, you won’t be disappointed. I guess if it’s not broke don’t fix it. Fast paced, funny, and just plain cool, RocknRolla is one to see.
This article first appeared at Poptimal and can be found at http://poptimal.com/index.php?s=rock. It was reprinted with permission.