Lowdown: A remake of Lock, Stock and Snatch.
Guy Ritchie is a capable director, no doubt about it. So why does he keep on making the same film again and again? First it was 1998's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, a film I remember as the first DVD I ever rented; then, in 2000, it was Snatch, which was pretty much an elaborate and richer version of the former. Now, after a sabbatical, Ritchie's 2008 comeback is a somewhat inferior take of the same good old themes, dubbed RocknRolla.
And what themes am I talking about? I acknowledge I won't be able to provide a proper representation of them here, but here's my attempt: I'm talking about a film set in England; very English accents - from Cockney to Geordie accents; very English slang; a full set of characters, virtually all of them crooks of one kind or another yet some "good" and some "evil"; a script that has us running from one character to another as we take our time figuring out what confusing entanglement Ritchie has set us up for; and a plot that revolves around one crook stealing from the other in a very closed loop affair.
This time around the plot revolves around some real estate conspiracies in London. If I may have a go at giving away the basics, we have ourselves two "good" crooks, including Gerald Butler from 300, who borrow money to buy property from another crook - a rather vicious and powerful one played by Tom Wilkinson - but find themselves unable to return the loan after Wilkinson betrays them so he can have their real estate. Then we have ourselves a Russian billionaire who is made to look very (but very) similar to the Chelsea Football Club real life owner, Roman Abramovich; that Russian crook needs to gain a foothold in London's real estate scene, so he uses Wilkinson as a mediator to the corrupt authorities. Only that our billionaire has a greedy accountant, Thandie Newton, who keeps on telling her bunch of crooks - Butler & Co - where the Russian money is. And we have ourselves a loop!
It gets more complicated than this, but that's the basic overview. And I can see where Ritchie is coming from, because if real estate corruption in London is anything like it is in Melbourne (and it should be much bigger), then there is a lot of room to make a fuss of it and point a finger at the stench. Just check out my lovely government's water plans for Melbourne to see how corrupt they are: on one hand they pour millions of liters of recycles water to the sea, claiming it's too expensive to make them drinkable (expensive my ass; show me the cost breakdown, please!), and on the other hand they're promoting a desalination plant that will suck greenhouse power and supply us with the most expensive water possible. Don't tell me they're not getting kickbacks from a Wilkinson lookalike!
Despite the touching conspiracy theories, RocknRolla is nothing special. That is, it could have been special if there weren't two other films before it that pulled the exact same trick; as it is, it is just an entertaining, aggressive action drama with some funny moments (a lot of them on the cheaper side of things, like jokes about a homophobic doing gay stuff).
Best scene: Our good heroes rob Russian money, only to face two Russian guards that seem to have been modeled after a Terminator (and the Terminator references are more than obvious). On the other hand, the scene is also quite bad, because it doesn't make sense; one of the Russians gets a clip full of bullets on his stomach and still makes a comeback, something that won't be possible even with a very mighty bullet proof vest.
Technical assessment: Nice overall, with a mildly aggressive sound and very nice rock music tracks that are often mixed to take center stage. Not a reference Blu-ray, but a good one to watch never the less.
Overall: It's time Ritchie moved on to direct other films. 3 out of 5 stars.