Sunday, February 08, 2009

RocknRolla: Grade C

RocknRolla (2008)
Gerard Butler, Thandie Newton, Tom Wilkenson, Toby Kebbell, Karel Roden; Writer-Director Guy Ritchie.

Lenny (Wilkenson) is a real-estate gangster in contemporary London. He bribes cops, judges, and city council to get irregular building permits so he can work his deceptive schemes. In the opening scene, he defrauds two small-time crooks out of a warehouse, but they come back later to sting him. Lenny thinks he has hit the jackpot when a Russian billionaire (Roden) needs a permit for a sports arena. The Russian loans Lenny his prized “lucky” painting, whose content we never see. The deal is set but the Russian’s accountant (Newton) tips off the local crooks about the money transfer, which they intercept. Meanwhile, somebody steals the Russian’s painting from Lenny, the suspect being a drug-addled rock singer who turns out to be Lenny's estranged stepson.

The story continues in this fashion with dozens of characters and as many improbable plot twists. There are double and triple crosses, but since nobody is properly motivated, none of it matters, so don’t waste your time trying to track the intricate plot. Instead, just enjoy gangsters doing gangstery things, the gritty sets, smart dialog, and gratuitous violence perpetrated by psychopathic hotheads. There is some good wit and plenty of British-isms in the dialog for Americans to puzzle over. The accents are manageable. But characters are no more than video game avatars and there is not one convincing emotion in the whole picture. Editing and directing are the strongest aspects of the film. The overall look is attractive, but there is nothing significant.

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