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Action & Adventure movie directed by Guy Ritchie

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Doesn't quite pull together all its crazy elements.

  • Jul 1, 2009
  • by
An interesting cast was assembled to tackle a twist-filled script, directed by a craftsman experience in the genre of everyday mobsters in modern day London. Every editing trick in the book was used. Clever camera work was deployed. A pulsing soundtrack provided a burst of extra energy. Yet in the end, ROCK N ROLLA is a whole lot of elements that look like they should be something resulting in a movie that is less than the sum of those parts.

Guy Ritchie doesn't really seem capable of directing a thoroughly engaging, focused film anymore. ROCK N ROLLA has a fairly complex plot, full of deceptions and back-stabbing...yet we follow it easily due to constant narration. I don't mind narration...but what it does for this film is take the place of tight filmmaking. We're too often being TOLD what's happening and what it means rather than experiencing and learning for ourselves. It feels like Ritchie is just repeating himself here, copying ideas that have worked for him before, and throwing them into a blender with some narration.

I won't attempt to rehash much of the plot here, but much of it revolves around London mobster Tom Wilkinson trying to work with incoming Russian mobster Karel Roden. Roden wants to pay Wilkinson the agree-upon sum of $7 million to smooth the way for building permits...but the money keeps getting stolen. The actual thefts are executed by some lower level thugs (Gerard Butler & Idris Elba), but are planned by Roden's deceitful accountant (Thandie Newton). In addition, Wilkinson's got a rock-star stepson named Johnny Quid, who has stolen a valuable painting that needs to be returned by Wilkinson to Roden. And so on. Mark Strong plays Archie, Wilkinson's right-hand man and our narrator. Strong's narration attempts to tie everything together for us, but as I said, being led by the hand SO much takes away some of the joy of discovery.

There are actually several enjoyable performances in this film. It's nice to see Wilkinson as a Brit, and he tears into his role with great gusto. He shows the much younger cast members a thing or two about commanding a scene. I enjoyed Strong as well...he's a very interesting looking actor, and he gives a very tight, contained performance, which serves as a good contrast to all the blustery work everyone else is doing. Gerard Butler and Idris Elba are very amiable indeed, but aren't given a lot to do. I can see these two starring in a movie together and making a nice impact on an audience. This is NOT the film for that...and if you're watching it to see Butler, who is so heavily featured on the DVD box and in the trailers...be aware that his part is not all that big.

On the other hand, Thandie Newton once again manages to be supremely annoying. While not quite reaching the depths of her performance in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE II...she just doesn't carry any heft or credibility. She's supposed to be a cool customer who likes danger and living on the edge...but she mostly just gets the cool part down. Standing around in tight dresses and smoking a cigarette does not a convincing performance make! Also poorly used are Jeremy Piven and Chris Bridges as a couple of American club owners/managers who get sucked into all the mess. A couple of tweaks to the script, and these characters could have been dropped altogether...so their presence here feels like little more than a ploy to give these two actors the "cred" of working with Guy Ritchie, and to make the movie more appealing to US audiences (and fans of ENTOURAGE, I guess.) In the end, the two men leave no impression.

The best scene in the movie is a prolonged chase scene, in which Butler and his buddies steal the money from a couple of VERY tough and determined Russian thugs who simply won't be stopped. It's funny to see the footchase, as Butler and his pursuer get more and more tired. The scene combined humor and action in a fun way that most of the rest of the movie lacked. Interesting, all killings happen either offscreen or at least, outside of the shot. Thus, it's a very violent movie that shows little violence. There's very little sex...so the R-rating comes from the constant bad language. And while the movie does have some verbal wit...it is far less clever than it thinks it is.

I've used this cliché before...but it REALLY holds true here: ROCK N ROLLA is full of sound and fury signifying nothing. The movie is really only for die-hard Ritchie fans (are there any?) or Gerard Butler or Tom Wilkinson completists.

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More RocknRolla reviews
review by . June 15, 2010
A real Rocknrolla wants the lot
What makes this stand out to you as a real gem?   When one sits down to watch this film, they expect a film about the underworld of London. What they don't expect is that the underworld is much more far reaching than we think. With all of these key players that the viewers are introduced to, how could they all be connected? What Guy Ritchie achieves in this film is astounding. He takes each individual character and gives him/her not only an integral part in the overall flow of …
Quick Tip by . August 26, 2009
Great Movie! Entertaining from begining to end. The entire cast made this movie...Guy Ritchie strikes again!
review by . April 09, 2009
In recent years, Guy Ritchie has been growing on me. After this film, I've squarely chalked that up to when I came to movie watching age.    I turned 17 in 1993 just as Quentin Tarantino was starting out. When I reached college, Reservoir Dogs was playing late every Saturday night at one of the seediest U-District (that's Seattle) movie theaters. Then came Pulp Fiction. Wow.     Rock N Rolla brought back some of that youthful feeling of movie watcing awe. …
review by . February 15, 2009
Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):     1. Sing a song of crime lords, pockets never dry   2. A Russian dealer comes to town, buildings to buy   3. While the deal was open, there was an offering   4. A rare and lucky canvas, which quickly went missing   5. The Accountant's in her counting house, counting out her money   6. The thug is in the parlor, nibbling at his honey   7. The knave is still a junkie, alive, but …
review by . February 01, 2009
A number of years ago young director Guy Ritchie changed mobster movies with his infectious LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS and that twisted underbelly of London's crime population is back in full force with ROCKNROLLA. Ritchie's style - mixing rapid action, flashback explanations, loopy violence, wildly imaginative characters, and a near non-understandable collection of various accents from the British Isles coupled with an integral musical score - makes this tale of deceit, desperation, intrigue, …
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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About this movie


“I own this town.” But owning is getting expensive for old-school London gangster Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson). A wealthier foreign mob is moving in with a riverfront property swindle. A small-timer (Gerard Butler) and his crew think they can play both sides and become big time. Now add a hard-as-ice accountant (Thandie Newton), a rocker playing dead to boost sales, wannabe music moguls (Jeremy Piven and Chris Bridges), a missing painting and a mad mosh of money and muscle, and youve got this funny, smash-mouth smackdown of sexthugs&rocknroll from writer/director Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch).
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Director: Guy Ritchie
Genre: Action, Adventure
Screen Writer: Guy Ritchie
DVD Release Date: January 27, 2009
Runtime: 114 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
First to Review

"Guy Ritchie and Style"
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