Guy Ritchie teased it, now it is time to deliver it!
Before Sherlock Holmes, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and his new King Arthur update, Guy Ritchie made his name by making some pretty top notch British gangster films. Starting with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in 1998, Ritchie changed the genre and updated it, the results of this were both good and bad. Good, in as much as Lock, Stock and its spiritual sequel Snatch (2000) were fantastic and bad, for the fact that it resulted in plethora of cheap bottom shelf direct to dvd carbon copies flooding the market.
Following a couple of major mis-steps (Swept Away/Revolver) RocknRolla represented a real return to form for Ritchie, not to mention a step up in budget. This was on a much bigger scale but it was still fundamentally British.
Mob boss Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) is manipulating a local Councillor to push through a corrupt land deal involving a dodgy Russian millionaire Uri. Meanwhile, Uri’s accountant (Thandie Newton) hires a small time crooks One-Two (Gerard Butler), Mumbles (Idris Elba) and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy) to rob the Russians and scupper the deal. When Lenny’s junkie rock star step son Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbel) disappears, he dispatches his right hand man and enforcer Archie (Mark Strong) to track him down.
Rocknrolla was much more polished than his earlier efforts and was just so much fun. Multi layered and complexly plotted, there are many of the same themes present here as with his earlier work such as , urban decay, rival gangs, friendship and loyalty.
I love this film, and in spite the initial disappointment of Ritchie regular Jason Statham’s absence (a scheduling conflict prevented his inclusion this time round), the ensemble cast are great. Toby Kebbel is on top form as the rocknrolla of the title. Johnny Quid is at the epicentre of the film, the catalyst for everything, with Kebbel flipping from stoner rocker to vicious killer and back again without breaking sweat. This should have launched him into the a-list, but only a few supporting roles and some pretty top notch motion capture work have followed. Tom Wilkinson brings a touch of class as the mobster clinging onto the past and trying desperately to remain relevant. Butler (probably in the Statham role), Elba and Hardy have a blast as The Wild Bunch, they are the nominal heroes, with their chemistry effortless. It is the brilliant Mark Strong who steals the film as the noble Archie. Loyal to Lenny and a career criminal, his has a strict moral code that make him the guy you end up rooting for the most.
With the film ending with a promise of Johnny, Archie and The Wild Bunch returning. A promise that has yet to materialise and with Guy Ritchie slated to helm Disney’s live action Aladdin and a third installment of the Sherlock Homes series also being mooted, it doesn’t look like it would happen any time soon. Which is a shame, for as much as I have enjoyed Ritchie’s Hollywood output, with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. being particularly polished, I think he is long over due a return to his roots.
With 5 excellent characters to play with, the scope is massive. Lenny’s demise leaves a power vacuum that needs filled, it would be interesting to see the loose cannon Johnny fill his father’s shoes with the noble Archie by his side. Maybe this second time around, we could focus more on The Wild Bunch pulling off a particularly ambitious heist? Surely, if a sequel was to happen, it could be worked into Jason Statham’s schedule to appear as the antagonist?
So Mr Ritchie, next time you have a window in your schedule, give a sequel to some thought. The Snooty Ushers would be first in the queue.
Thanks for reading. Hope you folks enjoyed yourselves, catch ya later on down the trail.