With a recent bout of what could be considered “bad” films (although I did enjoy Revolver), Guy Ritchie returns to the screen with RockNRolla, a film that also could be considered “bad” if critics are to be believed. With a fantastic cast headlined by Tom Wilkinson, Gerard Butler, Thandie Newton, Jeremy Piven and Chris Bridges, RockNRolla took Ritchie back to his London-based roots, yet it still didn’t please everyone. At this point, one wonders what would please everyone.
“I own this town.” But owning is getting expensive for old-school London gangster Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson). A wealthier foreign mob is moving in with a riverfront property swindle. A small-timer (Gerard Butler) and his crew think they can play both sides and become big time. Now add a hard-as-ice accountant (Thandie Newton), a rocker playing dead to boost sales, wannabe music moguls (Jeremy Piven and Chris Bridges), a missing painting and a mad mosh of money and muscle, and youve got this funny, smash-mouth smackdown of sex, thugs &rocknroll from writer/director Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch).
Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen all of his films (not even the Lock Stock or Snatch–I’ll get to ‘em eventually), but I honestly don’t see how these recent films from Richie could be considered “bad.” There seems to be a certain level of expectation from the man after so few films, which I don’t totally understand. Still, RockNRolla, for me, was really quite a fantastic film. I’ll attempt to tell you why, but I’m sure I won’t do a great job at it because I’m not entirely sure what I was watching to begin with.
That is one thing about Richie’s latest works, though. My first viewing of Revolver I had no real idea of what was going on and in RockNRolla, everything was so intertwined that I was completely lost at times as to the connections characters had with one another. However, there are two types of confusion that exist when it comes to movies: confusion as a result of bad writing/directing and confusion as a result of you not paying attention closely enough. RockNRolla fits in the latter, as Richie makes no great attempt to repeatedly inform the viewer of happenings on screen. Things happen once and that’s all, so if you don’t pick up on them and are later confused, then it’s time for a rewind or a second viewing.
Even in my confusion of the first viewing, I was greatly entertained by the quirks of the film. Gerard Butler especially made for an entertaining thief/thug/whatever and the charm of his character and the rest of the “Wild Boys” was evident from their first heist in the film. The sticking up of two accountants for their seven million was really one of the most entertaining scenes in the entire film. Butler kept it going throughout as well, from his interactions with Handsome Bob to his time spent with Thandie Newton’s character, everything about Butler in this film was entertaining.
But he wasn’t the only thing that made this film go; the gangster/mob side of it all was highly entertaining, as was the seeming “mystery” behind the lost money and painting. You never knew where the plot was going from one minute to the next and, quite frankly, I made no effort to guess either. It was such an easy film to enjoy, especially when characters started bickering with one another with a fast-paced dialogue style. Then of course there was Toby Kebbell as Johnny Quid, who was so full of absolutely random dialogue and sequences, yet he still stole the scene every time he was on the screen.
Perhaps I’m easy when it comes to action/comedy films, as they’re really my favorite genre and class of films. When done right they mix together some absolutely fantastic visuals with plenty of laughs and RockNRolla did all of it perfectly. On top of that you have Richie’s knack for directing and as a result we got some beautiful cinematography and shots from it. Visually it’s a fantastic film and the violence and comedy only further sell it.
While not the best film I’ve ever seen, I am genuinely surprised at the thrashing it took by critics. The resulting box office intake is even more disappointing, considering this is the supposed first in a trilogy. Here’s hoping we’ll still see future installments, as I would really like to see more of these characters. Admittedly the film could have been polished a bit more, but as is the film was a really fantastic time to spend in front of the screen. Highly Recommended.
RockNRolla arrives on Blu-ray in a two-disc Elite case (second disc is the digital copy) with a cardboard o-ring mimicking the jacket art below it. Inside the case is a set of inserts detailing firmware updates and the code for the digital copy. The film auto-starts, so no need for much of a menu system.
The film arrives with a VC-1 encoded transfer that is really impressive. Plenty of detail to be had here, from the hair on Thandie Newton’s head, to the stubble on Butler’s face and the texture of the suits that Wilkinson wears the transfer really offers up plenty of depth and detail on the screen. Grain is also present, and I honestly didn’t see any signs of DNR or anything to hinder ones enjoyment of the film. Audio is a pretty impressive TrueHD 5.1 mix, which tosses audio to the surrounds on more than one occasion and pumps out plenty of bass for the gun shots and music used in the film. Overall a fantastic mix from beginning to end. Also included are DD 5.1 tracks in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, as well as English, French, Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese subtitles.
Moving onto the extras we have Blokes, Birds and Backhanders: Inside RocknRolla (15:03, 1080i), a look into the making of the film. It’s short, but it’s enough for this film I think, especially considering we have a few other extras that delve into its production as well. Next up is Guy’s Town (8:31, 1080i), a quick documentary on Richie’s return to London, and an Additional Scene (2:00, SD) that really doesn’t amount to much (and is the only extra in SD…strange).
Finally we have the Commentary by writer/director Guy Ritchie and Co-Star Mark Strong, which is as informative as one would hope. Ritchie brings plenty to the table in terms of production and how shots were set up, while Strong offers up an actor’s point of view. He’s really the best one of the cast to have been involved with the commentary, as he worked with nearly every division of actor groups in the film, so he has plenty to talk about.
Overall this is a solid release and comes Recommended. Not an oversaturation of extras, but just enough for a film of this type and with the film being something that could be easily watched repeatedly, this is one to add to your collection if you’re a fan of action/comedy’s (or of Ritchie).
RockNRolla arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on January 27th.