In most aspects of my life, I am not easy to please. I am a tough crowd when it comes to jokes, music, food and the way I like my bloody marys. However, when it comes to movies, that is not the case. I reserve the right to consider my taste credible, but I don't (care to) know a damn thing about cinematography or the history of motion pictures. I'm a simple girl -- give me a few laughs, perhaps a tear or two, and I'll consider my $13.50 at the box office well spent. That said, my friends of the male species and I will perpetually butt heads on what we each consider a decent film. Guy Ritchie's latest, ROCKNROLLA, was no exception to that. Sigh, Mars and Venus. Immediately after the movie ended, I shot over the "Sooooo, what did you think?" side-glance at my friend Ryan, which was greeted by a facial expression similiar to one he would have displayed if he had just smelled some dog shit. "Here we go..." I thought to myself. We exited the theatre and as kismet would have it, ran head on into The Brothers (Jeff and Lenny of BehindTheHype). After we had all shared a circle jerk of personal thoughts and disbeliefs about Ritchie's (the UK's Tarantino) ROCKNROLLA, the majority seemed to be swaying towards a more negative opinion. I found myself the lone minority, and Ryan insisted that I elaborate on my POV during our walk to the car. Although I didn't have a solid list of reasons as to why it was a great movie, I had a solid list of reasons as to why I thought it was a great movie.
Going into it, I knew that ROCKNROLLA wasn't going to be another Snatch. How could it be, with the absence of Brad Pitt as a freewheelin' gypsy? Similar to that of Pulp Fiction, Snatch isn't capable of being outdone. However, each performance of the ENTIRE cast of this film was nothing less than stellar, and Ritchie's very thorough character development from beginning to end was both entertaining and fulfilling. Although more effectively displayed in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Ritchie has a superb and succinct way of taking the audience through a journey alongside his characters and their idiosyncrasies -- a sleek slink (The ROCKNROLLA himself), a signature pose (Stella/Thandie Newton), etcetera. I also enjoy the way the movie structure flowed, sucking you in when establishing the supporting roles ("The Wild Bunch"), and brings the storyline back full circle about 50 minutes into the film. This may be a direct rip-off from another filmmaker, but again, I am easy to please, so it works for me. Not to mention I find it much less abrasive than the Tarantino-esque back-asswards style of movie making.
Also noteworthy is the quick dialogue always evident in a Guy Ritchie film. The dialogue in ROCKNROLLA may not be up to par with that of his previous films, but I'll be damned if that British humor and them "BOLLOCKS!" and "Bob's your Uncle" outbursts don't have me in stitches the whole way through. Also- you may notice that the elusive painting featured in the film encapsulates an unspoken sacred mystique which can easily be paralleled to Marcellus Wallace's briefcase in Pulp Fiction.
Lastly, I stand strong in defense of my opinion because of the way the soundtrack carried my enthusiasm from beginning to end. Ritchie's taste in music is impeccable, with dashes of Lou Reed, The Sonics and Wanda Jackson -- obvious throwback references to 50s and 60s pop. These classics are mixed in with modern tracks by the likes of The Hives, not to mention a live club performance by The Subways. Being painted against the backdrop of the gritty, crime-filled streets of London, Ritchie showcases these songs while being paired with their scenes (a car chase, an execution, etc) like a fine wine and delectable imported cheese. This is more beautifully portrayed in one of the most proverbial scenes in the movie. Picture the infamous ROCKNROLLA, aka Johnny Quid, swaying in front of a smoky mirror to The Clash's "Bankrobber." Up until this point, Quid is ruthless, lowest-of-the-low junkee scum, a scathing individual that is wanted by the mob (led by his step-father, Tom Wilkinson's Lenny). Quid eerily sings to himself,
"...Daddy was a bankrobber
But he never hurt nobody
He just loved to live that way
And he loved to steal your money..."
It's a wonder if Ritchie wasn't solely inspired by those 4 lines when developing the entire concept behind this film. Flash back to an adolescent Quid in his bedroom, swaying and singing to the same song in front of a mirror. Without giving too much away, young Johnny Quid's ebb is shattered upon Lenny's entrance, who beats him down mentally and physically, providing for a detailed background of the ROCKNROLLA's adult persona. At this point, a pivotal reversal of roles occurs as Quid metaphorically switches from the film's antagonist to protagonist. It is from this point on that Toby Kebbell (as Johnny Quid) steals the show (and my empathetic heart).
I walked into this movie expecting perhaps an adrenaline rush and a few chuckles, but by film's end I was left with many more unexpected triggered emotions. Although comparetively; yes, the film did fall short, a well-done ending set the stage for the second installment (THE REAL ROCKNROLLA) of the supposed trilogy.
It may just be the vagina in me talking, but without having to invest in a bottle of wine and some imported cheese, that seems like $13.50 well spent to me. Take it or leave it.
To read Lenny's article on RocknRolla, click here.