Wednesday, 24 September 2008

REVIEW: RocknRolla

Happy days - Guy Ritchie is back on form!

It's been seven years since his last good film (Snatch) and after the shocking Cast Away and the trying-too-hard-to-be-clever Revolver, he really needed a hit.

And where better to find a hit than looking back at what made him popular in the first place: gangsters, London wit, good music, interweaving stories and black comedy.

In fairness, Ritchie isn't exactly re-inventing the wheel here: the opposing bad guys kill each other sparing the good guys, everyone is chasing a MacGuffin again (here it is a painting, previously it was a diamond and antique shotguns).

But Ritchie is sticking to what he does best. And why not? He has a natural talent within the British gangster genre and he might as well stick to it.

And he has matured. The film's main characters are a lot more fleshed out than in his previous films and he doesn't just rely on cartoon cut-out stereotypes (well, not as much as he used to).

Also, Ritchie doesn't get pre-occupied with comedy in RocknRolla. Whereas every other line in Lock Stock - and even more so in Snatch - was a tiresome sarcastic comment, here the humour is much more tethered and the film is better for it.

Ritchie still aims to emulate Tarantino a bit too much but, as always, he just ends up copying him: a silly dance scene between the two leads, walking in on characters in compromising situations, 'deep' theoretical monologues. Johnny Quid comparing life to a cigarette packet is very Tarantino-wannabe dialogue and falls short of the mark.

But small gripes aside, this is an enjoyable, exciting, stylishly-shot, cool-sounding film.

And there is no short amount of praise for the cast: Gerard Butler is charismatic as ever as One-Two, the relatively unknown Tom Hardy is likable as the closet-homosexual Handsome Bob, Mark Strong has confirmed himself as a rising talent as Archy (and is set to play Dr Watson alongside Robert Downey Jr in Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes) and newcomer Tony Kebbell is scarily watchable as rock star Johnny Quid.

Throw in a twist or two and you have a great film. And we are promised that the gang will return in The Real RocknRolla. A Guy Ritchie first: a sequel?

Rock on.

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