Monday, November 03, 2008

"RocknRolla" (2008) - Movie Review

Guy Ritchie has sympathy for the pawns. It is a sympathy which is an attraction towards the manliness of his lead men in his films. In fact he includes that literally in this film with a character “Handsome” Bob (Tom Hardy) towards the lead guy One Two (Gerard Butler). You can see Jason Statham in it but we should not take the credit away from Butler who brings in the likeable macho Statham has on Ritchie’s previous films. Ritchie returns to his genre which gave him the cult status. It has been a mastered art but “RocknRolla” is not his master piece but as the dubious MacGuffin painting it is fun and the missed dark wittiness from Ritchie is a pleasure to watch.

The thugs or the “The Wild Bunch” are the ones we would be rooting for or to get them out of a mess. It is not the plot but the running around Ritchie delivers. He was pitch perfect in “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, a classy touch in “Snatch” and here a matured round on where he knows that no one really wants to understand the plot. They want a wild ride of chasing circles and funny lines from the hard men with sweat and blood underneath their leather jackets ready to rub it on.

It follows the “The Wild Bunch”, the reigning London real estate master scammer/planner Lenny (Tom Wilinson), his right hand man Archie (Mark Strong), Lenny’s new client a Russian named Uri (Karel Roden), Uri’s accountant Stella (Thandie Newton) and Lenny’s junkie rocker son Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell). The pawns and the chess players move around as Ritchie wants them with his editing of sleek and shaky work. As the set up is run with the voice over explaining the deals and work styles of each of them, the film goes on weaving the odd dry humour.

The great laughs are from the running joke of One Two’s last night favour to his best buddy Bob whom he learned was gay and “wants” One Two. What follows the rest of the film is the subtle and open awkwardness One Two goes on and the others draw upon from him. It is all about each scene structured with a song very much appropriate and an over smarty dialogue with a punch line of raw comic. At times it is over done and you see the gnawed teeth of the screenplay grinning on its coolness. It is like the popular kid bragging which other normal crowd who hates it but internally aspires to be that person and for that creates an attraction.

The movies high light is the second robbery which reminds the glory days on the cadre of dry wit Guy brought to the English streets. The honest fact though is that Tarantino owns the patent but Ritchie brought something else to the table wherein he crossed the seriousness into an entertainment. This cross country ride in multiple realms of genre confused whether to laugh at the bloodsheds or take this seriously at all. The result is what we see in the sharp blades of smart lines and racy visuals.

There are loose ends, many. But who cares as long as there is a smoky dark room with men with guns and glowing women sometimes with power and sometimes with that added sultry lusciousness needed for the moment. As mentioned in the start of the film, what is the passionate look at the key low players in a big scheme? Why create a space for their charms and loyalty as to vouch for this in this game of bloody battle? When we think about those, it is “Fight Club” all over. When that cult hit came, it is not alone the frustration of the regular cubicle drone breaking free but it is the drooling of becoming the macho factor defined by the films and the ego inside aspiring in fists of men. As Ebert vehemently put it, that indeed is the homoeroticism on Tyler Durden as character of Edward Norton looks upon. While that film dealt it with a humour and gravity in visceral nature, Ritchie removes the weight of the bloodiness and pumps the humour. And we get a manly character we fantasize of being and through him we live those moments.

The film as said previously reaches its peak in the second robbery and sets up a grand finale of some predictable suspense and clean escape of the pawns. It has dialogues which does not make much sense and character which we find no reason to be in the film. Yet it is a Guy Ritchie film and in that he reminisces the times of those good old days of more than a bunch of young fools hoping to loot the money for their ridiculous debt they accumulate and here growing up to be the “The Wild Bunch”. They are still the fools not learning that the head always plays them in the end but that is the fun in “RocknRolla”.

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