Tuesday, January 27, 2009


After the dismal reception of his previous two films (Swept Away and Revolver), writer/director Guy Ritchie’s newest feels like a defensive retreat to a safe zone for him. Gladly, that zone still manages to entertain in spite of its overwhelming sense of deja vu. If you liked Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and/or Snatch, consider this the third film of a trilogy and you’ll know just what to expect here.

Since Jason Statham didn’t report for duty this time around, the Statham-ish role went to Gerard Butler. While he’s charming, he ultimately just seems a bit too…clean to really pull off the role of the colorfully named neighborhood tough guy, One Two. Likewise, his closest partner in crime named Mumbles (Idris Elba from The Wire) doesn’t make much of a lasting impression, making this a decidedly non-dynamic duo. However, since this is a Ritchie production, there are plenty (too many?) of other bit players ready to offer some zing, notably Toby Kebbell as a strung-out ex-rock star and Tom Wilkinson as crime kingpin Lenny Cole. Surprisingly though, the stunt casting of Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Jeremy Piven in non-essential parts fails to add any spark to the film.

The plot, such as it is, defies easy explanation due to its disparate and not entirely comprehensible threads, but basically boils down to London thugs trying to outwit each other and the Russian mob. There’s a handy MacGuffin making the rounds, in this case a painting loaned by the Russians to Lenny Cole and subsequently passing through numerous hands. There’s an icy femme fatale played competently by Thandie Newton, giving the film its only testosterone-free jolt. There’s some comedy interspersed with the violence, but mostly just a high prevalence of guns, cussing, and quickly shifting alliances. Everything moves at a brisk pace and Ritchie includes enough visual pizzazz, especially in an amusing foot chase on train tracks, to keep the energy and interest level high.

The 2-disc special edition DVD includes the standard film on one disc as well as a digital copy on disc 2. Special Features aren’t too special, with only one deleted scene and a brief featurette on “Guy Ritchie’s London” where he talks about some of the locations used in the film.

RocknRolla is available today on DVD and Bluray.

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