Guy Ritchie returns to the British underbelly with his freewheeling, rather fun RocknRolla.
Starring Gerard Butler (300), Thandie Newton, and Tom Wilkinson, this sprawling modish escapade almost feels like an energetic variation on The Departed. Though fans of the director's Snatch probably won't be disappointed.
Butler's One-Two provides voice-over as the script by Ritchie involves Wilkinson's merciless property magnate Lenny who controls the local London councilor (Jimi Mistry of The Guru). A tenuous agreement is made with a smarmy Russian racketeer (Karel Roden) while his shifty accountant (Newton) is drawn into the web of One-Two and gambling cohorts. There is some kind of efficiency "expert" (Mark Strong) involved in tracking a missing painting borrowed by Lenny's "estranged" stepson muscian (Toby Kebbell) who doesn't appear until close to the midpoint.
There is a snappy pep to how Ritchie executes it all when it comes to the gags and graphics like his breakthrough Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. For the adult nature of it all, twisted in ironic, sometimes philosophical wit, there's little gratuitousness when the direction is tempered with saucy drollness.
So, for the excessive number of players, it's not that boggling to keep track of such a colorful ensemble with plenty of tics, though not played for richer characterizations. Kebbell demonstrates screen presence in the title role, while it's clear that all in front of and behind the camera were enjoying every minute of it. As it rather mindlessly convocates at the wild climax.
This sometimes vicious, vogue romp gradually untangles itself to the benefit of those not into the razzy, not always bright commentary by One-Two. RocknRolla doesn't invite insight into individual moral codes or corruptibility given that everyone seems to be ferreting out one another, while having its perspective into abuse and fear when it comes to sex and strangers. It's definitely a guilty pleasure for anyone with an obsessive streak who like their merriment extra mean and nutty.