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Page last updated at 11:15 GMT, Friday, 8 August 2008 12:15 UK
RocknRolla: Newsbeat's review

By Kev Geoghegan
Radio 1 music reporter

RocknRolla

Guy Ritchie is in dire need of a hit movie after the disaster that was Swept Away and the confusing mess of Revolver.

RocknRolla is a return to the east London gangster movie that served Ritchie so well in his first two films, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.

It boasts an impressive homegrown cast which includes 300's Gerard Butler, Oscar-nominated Tom Wilkinson, Bafta winner Thandie Newton, Idris Elba and new Bond girl Gemma Arterton.

But is it any good?

Well, yes and no. It is enjoyable but nowhere near as funny or clever as the director seems to think it is.

It starts well, borrowing the Frank Miller-style animated credits from such movies as Sin City and 300.

Narration is provided by Archie, played by Mark Strong, an enforcer for old-school London gangster Lenny Cole, played by Wilkinson.

Lenny, who we learn has the police, the courts and planning committees in his back pocket, is about to do a real estate deal with a dodgy Russian billionaire called Uri who we meet in his box at a large London football club (sound like anyone much?).

The Russian lends his "lucky" painting to Lenny for safekeeping and arranges the transfer of several million euros.

RocknRolla
Gerard Butler as OneTwo and Idris Elba as Mumbles

Cue Thandie Newton's femme fatale, a brilliant accountant who can be "very creative with dirty money".

She tips off small time crook OneTwo, played by Butler and his crew called The Wild Bunch - in a knowing tip of the hat to bloody western director Sam Peckinpah - who nick the cash.

Things go from bad to worse when Uri's beloved painting goes missing from Lenny's office, just as it becomes clear that a quietly psychotic Russian with former Soviet army connections isn't the type of man to owe money to.

Again borrowing from Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction where we never get to see the inside of the briefcase, so we never actually see the painting.

Believe it or not, it actually gets quite complicated after all that.

Confusing plot

OneTwo and The Wild Bunch owe cash to Lenny, he needs cash to grease the palms of various officials, the Russian wants to find out who stole the money, the painting goes missing, there's a police snitch at work and there's also a junkie rock and roll star (said to be modelled on Pete Doherty) who has faked his own death and may or may not be the key to it all.

It's all a little confusing but at least it is mercifully free of the cod philosophy of Revolver. Ritchie does what he does best when he is writing about cockney wide boys with great nicknames like Mumbles, Handsome Bob, and Cookie and their half baked get rich quick schemes.

There are some solid performances, in particular Toby Kebbell as the elegantly wasted rock and roller (RocknRolla get it?) Johnny.

Butler steps out from behind the beard and the brawn of 300's Leonidas to play the flawed OneTwo, a mix of charismatic charm and witless slapstick.

Guy Ritchie facts
1998 Directs Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
2000 Directs Snatch and marries Madonna
2002 Swept Away does not get a UK cinema release
2005 Revolver starring Jason Statham and Ray Liotta is panned
2008 Rumoured to be working on a new version of Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr

He also shows he isn't restrained by self-consciousness as he disproves the rule that tough guys don't dance.

But some of the dialogue feels a little tired and what are meant to be funny lines are a little flat.

There are some great set pieces including a botched robbery and a chase scene in which our anti-heroes are pursued by a couple of seemingly indestructible Russian mercenaries.

Most of the male characters display the usual amount of machismo you may expect from this type of film and that results in a slight homophobic whiff when one character is outed and his homosexuality is used as a comedic tool throughout the remainder of the film.

Guy Ritchie has apparently said that RocknRolla is to be the first of a trilogy, which is just as well as there are more than a few loose strings still to be tied at the end of the film.

Not quite a return to his best but shows, at least, that Guy Ritchie may still have something left in the tank.



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