Friday, November 21, 2008

Movie Review:RocknRolla

As a general rule, I am not a director-driven movie watcher. I seldom find that enjoying one of a director's works automatically means I will enjoy other works he puts out. A fine example would be Peter Jackson. I loved the Lord of the Rings franchise but would rank King Kong among the worst efforts I have seen in recent years.

Conversely, disliking one movie they helm may dissuade me from seeing others if it is their first work I have seen. I was not overly enamored of Snatch (2000) and as a result did not see some of his other efforts. Guy Ritchie has developed a reputation as not the most accessible of directors and as someone who is an acquired taste.

That kept me away from RocknRolla (2008) until almost too late, the last day it was in local theatres when my desire for Kettle Corn overcame my desire not to see another stink bomb akin to We Own the Night.

Pity. Rock is a smart, funny flick with some very sharp acting. Oh, sure, some of it is pick and punch stock characters...the silent, yet capable muscle behind THE MAN, the self-important gangster boss, the foreign interloper outsmarting the local guy...but the roles were played so well I really did not care.

Rock is several stories that intertwine because they involve the same characters. Mini subplots are woven in such a way they all make sense either individually or as part of the larger tapestry of the overall movie.

One Two (Gerard Butler), Mumbles (Idris Elba) and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy) are a small time crew who sometimes work for gangster Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson). Lenny engages in real estate scams. When he prevents One Two and Mumbles from garnering planning for a deal they are putting together, he puts them in a financial hole.

They climb out of it using information given them by Stella (Thandie Newton), the accountant for the Russian mobster also involved with Lenny. Using her tip, they steal a payment intended for Lenny which puts the permits on hold, the Russian in a hole, and Lenny unable to come through. Meanwhile, Lenny's estranged, strung-out step-son Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell) steals the Russian's "lucky painting" from Lenny.

Lenny sets his strong-man Archie (Mark Strong) on a search for the painting.

In the end, everyone is looking for someone...the Wild Bunch is looking for the informer putting them in prison, the Russian is looking for the traitor in his organization, Archie is looking for the Wild Bunch, his former managers are looking for Johnny Quid, Johnny is looking for...something...and some mob strong-arm guys are looking for the guys who boosted the money they were couriering.

The resolution is satisfying, makes sense, and leaves it wide open for a sequel.

This is a tightly-scripted movie with some particularly strong performances, especially Toby Kebbell. The framing is well done, the cinematography alternately beautiful at times and dark and gritty at others. You have to think a little to follow the story and parse out the meanings of all the interactions, but in the end it is very worthwhile and highly entertaining. This movie should have had a better reaction from the movie-going public.

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