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United Kingdom, 2008
Directed By: Guy Ritchie
Written By: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Gerard Butler, Thandie Newton, Tom Wilkinson
Running Time: 114 minutes
Rated R pervasive language, violence, drug use and brief sexuality
This review was originally published November 14th, 2008.
Subtlety is overrated. Now hear me out. I’m not saying that we should burn every Bergman or obliterate every Ozu. I do believe, however, that oftentimes something worth doing is worth overdoing. What better time do overdo something than when it’s going to be projected on a thirty foot high screen?
Admittedly, the counter argument holds a lot of water as well. Much of what we, as the viewing public, are presented with is unsubtle to the point of being painful. I would like to posit however that a lack of nuance is not nearly as painful as a lack of artistry.
Now to move this argument from the abstract to the concrete with Guy Ritchie. (Note: For conveniences sake we will be removing Swept Away as a point of discussion. I’m sure this angers no one.) Here is an auteur who has reliably been about as subtle as an overused simile. Even the titles of his films are gleefully over the top, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Revolver, RocknRolla. Titles that conjure greasy images of sex, drugs, and yes, even rock and roll, before the first frame of film is even projected. He is obvious, yet not artless. His movies throb and pulsate with palpable style, delivered with a sure hand by someone who knows the bloody, visceral thrill that celluloid can create.
Even though all his characters seem to have grown up within the same neighborhood, there is a logical progression to the films themselves. A maturing of ideas, if not necessarily of content. His foul mouthed protagonists have begun to strive for some sort of depth in his last couple of outings. The dénouement of Revolver in particular plays out like a philosophical discussion held at gunpoint. While RocknRolla never attempts to dissect kabbalah teachings, Gerard Butler’s character of One Two is certainly a more complex man than Snatch’s Turkish.
But, honestly character complexity isn’t the reason you buy a ticket to a Guy Ritchie movie. The plot twists and turns back upon itself like some unholy union of Syd Field and Oroborous. Coincedence and misunderstandings abound. There are so many fake outs and double crosses that the whole affair simply has to be explained via voice-over. Jean-Luc Godard famously said “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.” RocknRolla is well stocked with firearms, Thandie Newton is definitely a dame to die for, and kiss, kiss, bang, bang, sounds damn good with a cockney accent.