Yeah that's right, kind of. Me and Jeff went to see RocknRolla last night.
As a sidenote, I had the good fortune of meeting Behind the Hype's very own Casey Cupcakes for the first time. We ran into her exiting the very same showing. Great minds I guess. A more lively and exuberant creature you will not meet. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting her, here's a tip - try dropping the word "Kismet" into the conversation. Not just randomly though, you'll have to use it in a proper sentence of course. But I digress...
If you've seen the trailer's for RocknRolla, you might have thought that it reminded you of the movie Snatch.
It surely reminded me of Snatch. Snatch the movie that is, not the female reproductive organ. I have actually been out of any sort of contact with Snatch the female reproductive organ for so long that nothing reminds me of it anymore. But now I'm just being tangential, lets get back to it...
The RocknRolla trailer might have even lead you to believe that it was a sequel, or possibly a prequel to Snatch. Snatch 2 perhaps? And if it did, you would be wrong, as it most assuredly is neither. While it's true that both films share some common elements; both have ensemble casts and intertwining story lines, both are set in London with a majority British cast, both are caper films, and both are written and directed by Guy Ritchie, but that's where the similarities begin and end.
Snatch was a near flawless caper film, while RocknRolla conversely, is riddled with flaws.
Before I go on, I feel it requisite to state for the record that I liked RocknRolla, I didn't love it (riddled with flaws remember?), but I liked it. However what I think I liked most was seeing Guy Ritchie back in the game. I think my opinion of RocknRolla probably suffers as a result of my raised expectations based on the high hopes garnered by that Snatch-y trailer.
You see, I am a Guy Ritchie fan. I think that he is an immensely talented filmmaker, but his last film of note was the aforementioned Snatch, and that came out in 2000. Eight motherfucken years ago! Oh he did make a movie in those interim eight years yes. He made the supremely ill-advised remake of the critically acclaimed Italian film Swept Away.
So what happened to Guy Ritchie? I have a theory and it goes like this...There are four main types of relationships, historically, among the realm of creative types. These definitions are gender neutral, but for my argument, they will be Male/Female.
1. The first of these relationships is one where a woman's influence on a man (or vice-versa) is a fuel for his creativity, she is his muse, his inspiration. He isn't half the artist without her in his life as he is with her. Think of Andy Warhol's most famous painting. You're thinking of Marilyn Monroe aren't you?
2. The second of these relationships is mutually beneficial. Both parties creativity is boosted by the other's presence/influence/being. Think early Woody Allen & Mia Farrow, pre-Soon-Yi.
3. The third of these relationships is one where the woman (or vice-versa) is a detriment to the creativity and originality of her man. She is a leech. She saps him of all that is great in him, artistically. Think Angelina & Billy Bob.
4. The fourth and final of these relationships is the mutually venomous one. Both parties are destructive influences on one another. Their kinship is a drain on not only each other, but on the world at large for denying the masses the otherwise would-be creative genius. Think Sid & Nancy, Kurt & Courtney, Ben & Jen.
For me, it's pretty clear that Guy Ritchie falls into the third category above and is quite obviously the creative half of that relationship. It is Madonna that is the eviscerator of Guy Ritchie's talent. She is the succubus draining him of every last drop of his creaetive lifeblood. It was her, afterall, that starred in that Swept Away remake. Not only that, but she also played "The Star" in Guy Ritchie's installment of the BMW films "The Hire" series from several years back.
Those films, if you'll recall, starred Clive Owen (Man Crush! - article coming soon) in what amounts to the same role later essayed by Jason Statham (another Man Crush! - article still coming soon) in The Transporter. There were five initial installments and then another three were commissioned based on the success of those first five. Guy Ritchie directed one of the first five and he was in great company. The rest of that list? Try John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, Wong Kar Wai, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - some of the world's most talented and respected filmmakers. And BMW felt that Guy Ritchie belonged in their ranks.
But wouldn't you know it, Ritchie's installment was the weakest of the lot. Why? Madonna! Yes, I realize that this all sounds very misogynistic of me, but you can't deny the record. My theory is that after all these years, Ritchie has finally begun to build up a tolerance to Madonna's haggard cunt. But he's not fully immune yet. That is the main reason why RocknRolla isn't as good as Snatch. I am optimistic that his next film brings him back to his PM (pre-Madonna) brilliance. Now on to my review of the actual movie...
RocknRolla, as previously stated is an emsemble film, but if my hand was forced and I had to pick a "star" I would go with Gerard Butler (might be an up-and-coming Man Crush), better known as King Leonidas of 300 fame.
Butler plays a thug in cahoots with several other thugs, collectively known as "The Wild Bunch" who are tipped by Thandie Newton's sexy accountant to knock off a discreet (no armed guards) 7 million Euro cash withdrawal/transfer.
Thandie Newton works for a Russian Billionaire, Uri, played by Karel Roden, who is trying to have a stadium built in London. To have a stadium, or really pretty much anything, built in London, you need to grease the wheels and the biggest/only oil can is Tom Wilkinson's charater, Lenny Cole. Lenny has all the contacts, and by contacts I mean people in his pocket, people that make things happen.
Uri needs to get the 7 Million Euros (the grease) in Lenny's hands (the oil can) so he can pay off the Councillor (the wheel) to approve the building permits (for Uri's stadium). The end of Lenny and Uri's first meeting is sealed not with a handshake, but with a loan...
Ritchie is quite obviously a student of film, a fact illustrated by his use of the MacGuffin here. The MacGuffin for those unfamiliar with the term, is a plot device originated by late great Alfred Hitchcock.
Definition: in film, a plot device that has no specific meaning or purpose other than to advance the story; any situation that motivates the action of a film either artificially or substantively; also written McGuffin Etymology: Alfred Hitchcock's term, based on a story where this device was used in a story set on a Scottish train
Wikipedia has a decent explanation of that Scottish train story.
To the best of my recollection, the last notable MacGuffin in recent film history is the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, or rather the glowing contents of the briefcase. Here in RocknRolla, the MacGuffin is in the form of a never-glimpsed-by-the-audience "lucky" painting. It is Uri's lucky painting, and he loans it to Lenny in the spirit that it should bring him luck with the Councillor, which would trickle down to still being lucky for Uri.
But the painting gets stolen. Right out of Lenny's house. And it isn't until this point, about halfway through the film that we're finally introduced to the eponymous RocknRolla brilliantly played by Tony Kebbell.
And if the plot seems a little strained and convoluted, that's only because it is. There are Russian Mercenaries, Closeted Homosexual Lawyers, Snitches (not to be confused with Snatches), Junkies, Music Producers/Mangers/Promoters, Crawfish, Marriage Proposals, Wheelchairs, an exploding Rolls Royce Phantom, a reluctant right hand man (Mark Strong's Archie), and the birth of a badass. If you can get past the plot, all the other Ritchie elements are present and accounted for.
The dialogue and character interactions are all top notch, and the characters themselves are definitely up to Ritchie's Snatch standards. Again, Snatch the movie, as, to the best of my knowledge, Guy Ritchie doesn't possess Snatch the female reproductive organ...unless Madonna made him get one. But the film still somehow fell flat. His execution is flawed. He doesn't bring it all together cohesively. It wasn't until about the last ten minutes that I was watching a movie I could have loved.
The final frame of the film is a tag implying that several of the characters will be back again in "The Real RocknRolla." I hope that's true, and I hope that Guy get's it completely right the next time out.
Look, like I said, it was a good movie, that I liked, but it just wasn't a great movie that I loved. So long as you don't hold it up to Snatch expectations, it should be a good night out at the movies. Especially if your girl gives you a handy, or a beej in the theater, but that's neither here nor there.
Hope you enjoy the movie and I hope you enjoyed my review. But if you didn't, look for the differing opinion's by Jeff and Casey on this same subject to be printed in these pages shortly.
To read Casey Cupcakes' article on RocknRolla, click here.