Guy Ritchie is probably right at home with his own brand of English crime capers, which is full of machismo over the top action sequences, tough talking, black comedy, and an all round edgy feel to it, not to mention the frequent casting of Jason Statham, who has since moved on from the Smoking Barrels, Snatch and Revolver days. In fact, it's been a good 8 years since we last saw Ritchie's feature films on screen, since Revolver had a straight to DVD release here, and Ritchie's widely panned effort with Swept Away starring his wife Madonna being avoided with a ten foot pole.
So with RocknRolla, Guy Ritchie can announce and signal his comeback to the much loved genre where he's probably a master of, except that this film still had much to be desired, albeit containing elements of his signature style. We go back to the usual crooked czar where Tom Wilkinson's Lenny Cole heads a small team of gangsters who fleece unsuspecting land / home buyers in real estate, until such time where he thought he had a big fish for the kill in the coming of a wealthy Russian mobster. But after the same pot of gold, knowingly or unwittingly getting themselves embroiled in the big scheme of things, include Thandie Newton's accountant Stella, Gerard Butler's small time hoodlum One-Two, and a rock star Jonny Quid (Toby Kebbell), a druggie who fakes his own superstardom death.
While you can't fault the good ol' almost watertight linking of everyone to everyone else, the narrative did feel that it needed some nip and tuck as it does tend to indulge in itself a little by getting too meandering in its presentation, throwing up a chock full of supporting roles by Ludacris or Jimi Mistry the corrupt Councillor. One example of such an indulgence happened to be one of the more entertaining action sequences involving some hard to put down Russian gangsters, who were much like robotic Terminators with Energizer fuel cells that keep going on and on, though it did serve its purpose with self-deprecating humour for a character to trumpet his own horn.
And the characters here are a mixed bunch, most of whom were the stars in a relatively simple black versus black plot. The lead narrator Archie (Mark Strong) tends to stay out of the picture most of the time, seemingly comfortable to passing the baton to Butler who relatively has more star power, but Wilkinson single handedly steals the show with his gangster who made it big through the misfortune of others who fall for his cunningness. Thandie Newton as the seductress never really get much to do here except to pout and roll her eyes, despite touting to be the best in the business in creative accounting.
You can count on Ritchie to conjure some really visually attractive scenes and sequences, coupled with some memorable dialogue. Though I must admit that RocknRolla here did seem a little bit homophobic, especially when there's a running joke that runs throughout the film involving One-Two and fellow peer Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy) that went on for a tad too long, although I must admit some of it were genuinely hilarious in its own right, especially when left to your own devices to imagine what transpired given the deliberate omission of crucial details stemming from character embarrassment. And running along the same idea of a gag in letting your imagination run wild, is the make up of a valuable lucky painting that you just don't get to see.
All in all, RocknRolla still proved itself to be quite an entertaining feature, and for fans of Ritchie, the wait is finally over. Not his greatest work to date, but nothing too shabby either.