In 1997, three directors seemingly had the world where they wanted it. Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were the hot new directors in Hollywood in the post-Sundance era. A scant 12 years ago, those three were supposed to change cinema and all that jazz. A decade plus later, they stand in precarious positions in terms of their success. QT has lent his name out as a producer more than as a director, and what he has directed hasnt been the sort of mega hit that has been supposed to come from him. Rodriguez has been successful with his Spy Kids franchise but hasnt crossed $100 million domestically with any of his other films.
Ritchie may have been the more spectacular failure of the bunch. After a high profile debut in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and its completely derivative (but still entertaining) follow-up Snatch, Ritchie married singer Madonna and seemingly forgot what made him a good director. Swept Away was a remake and a vanity project for his wife, and a spectacular failure on many levels, and Revolver seemed to be a reach back to Lock, Stock except without the quality. So Rocknrolla was a make or break moment for Ritchie; if he fails he falls into the category of being a one film wonder. If he succeeds he begins to redeem a near decade run of futility.
Rocknrolla is highly derivative of Lock, Stock, as Ritchie found his formula of criminal hijincks over a decade ago and hes figured out how to tweak it to make it fresh and original, but in all the ways Revolver failed it succeeds beyond all wildest dreams.
The film focuses on the relationship between criminals engaged in various criminal enterprises. Lenny (Tom Wilkinson) is the resident criminal mastermind, “Headmaster of the Old School” as he likes to call himself, and the man to go to for anything. His right hand man is Archie (Mark Strong), who delivers a heck of a backhand slap and is also the narrator of the film. When One-two (Gerard Butler) and his gang, dubbed The Wild Bunch, get into him for $2 million for a failed real estate deal they have to find a way to do it or face Archies wrath. When a tip from an accountant (Thandie Newton) gives them the inside on a score big enough to settle their debts and then some, it leads to unintended consequences as the money was earmarked as part of a real estate deal between Lenny and a billionaire Russian looking to finance another deal. Throw in Lennys stepson Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell) and his managers, Roman (Jeremy Piven) and Mickie (Chris Bridges), and the criminal underworld gets diverse and complicated.
For Ritchie the complicated criminal underground is his niche and Ritchie is in rare form with Rocknrolla, being able to balance out a relatively complex plot with lots of moving parts into a strong narrative. Considering he doesnt have most of his regulars, including Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham, Ritchie has perhaps his best cast ever with a script with some heft to it. Considering he wrote it, as well, Ritchie the director and Ritchie the writer are on the same page as the film is one with a lot of flair and style that a director like Ritchie can handle.
Its engaging with a wild finale, as Ritchie builds up to it quite wonderfully, but the films major problem is that its significantly derivative of his prior work as opposed to being completely original. The film and its plot, et al, are all original but the way in which they are presented is reminiscent of Ritchies prior work.
Rocknrolla is a terrific film, if derivative, and was one of 2008s best.
The transfer for Rocknrolla is wonderful. Presented in a Dolby Digital format with a widescreen presentation, this is a dark film with some interesting color combinations. Londons underworld looks great, however.
Guys Town is a look at London and the reasoning behind the film. Having been developed and diversified in the last 30 years, the city itself has changed dramatically. Many American and Eastern European expatriates have settled there, giving it a New York City type of feel per the cast.
A Deleted Scene is included but doesnt add much back into the film, though.
Mark Strong and Ritchie combine for a Commentary Track.
A Digital copy of the film is included as well.
A great film is definitely what Rocknrolla is but a good DVD it is not. While the digital copy of the film is about the only redeeming factor of the two-disc DVD set, its not enough to warrant a recommendation. Its nothing much more than glorified single disc edition and not worth the extra five dollars.
Warner Bros. presents RocknRolla. Written and Directed by Guy Ritchie. Starring Tom Wilkinson, Mark Strong, Gerard Butler, Thandie Newton, Jeremy Piven, Chris Bridges.. Running time: 115 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: January.27.2009. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Gerard Butler, Guy Ritchie, Jeremy Piven, Mark Strong, Tom Wilkinson