After the debacle of his would-be mystical crime thriller Revolver (not to mention the even more disastrous Swept Away), Guy Ritchie ditches the Kabbalah sermons and returns to something closer to what fans of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch expect from him – a larky tale of underworld lowlife featuring lots of geezers and guns.
RocknRolla’s chief geezers are a pair of small-time crooks, One Two and Mumbles (played by 300‘s Gerard Butler and The Wire‘s Idris Elba), who trigger off an escalating feud between Tom Wilkinson’s old-time East End gangland kingpin and a powerful Russian oligarch/mobster (Karel Roden) after Thandie Newton’s sultry femme fatale enlists them to steal a consignment of euros being sent from one crime boss to the other.
As ever with Ritchie, RocknRolla is more flash than substance, but beneath the swagger his movie scratches away at British anxieties about being past it as a country, which seems uncomfortably prescient given the country’s current economic meltdown. Significantly set in a then-booming London touting itself as the ‘the financial and cultural capital of the world’, Ritchie’s film goes out of its way to show how Wilkinson’s would-be wheeler-dealer gets comprehensively outsmarted both by the ruthless Russky and by his dissolute stepson, a junkie rock star said to be modelled on Pete Doherty. (Released 2nd February.)