Saturday, 6 September 2008

Rocknrolla - film review

Okay, so as a rule I don't have any interest in gangster movies. More-or-less by definition they revolve around unsympathetic characters, and Brit crime flicks offer a vision of this country that is rather less recognisable to me than, say, Balamory, and considerably less attractive.

But I went to see Rocknrolla because of Mr Butler of course. And it was fun. A rollicking ensemble piece; if it wasn't the wrong genre I'd describe it as a romp. See Gerry dance (More than a nod to Pulp Fiction in that scene)! See Gerry in the briefest sex scene ever committed to celluloid! Gangsters batter each other about like they were cartoon characters and threaten each other with crayfish.

The director Guy Ritchie has been accused (by his brother-in-law) of being the most rabidly homophobic bloke in showbiz, but it doesn't come across in this film. Actually there are quite a lot of lingering shots of fit, undressed male bodies. There is a plot that revolves around (terror of) homosexuality but it ends up really rather warm and touching. And jeez, if you're going to get a pity-fuck off anyone, why not start with Gerard Butler?

The movie is pretty violent of course, although any violence that would mar the comic tone is carefully kept offscreen. Death is reserved mostly for characters you have been led to believe to deserve it. Just don't go thinking about the slaughter and torture that's taking place when the camera turns away.

In fact don't think about it much at all; the plot revolves around a number of devices that are fairly preposterous: a "lucky" painting that exerts a powerful attraction over everyone who sees it: a small-time rockstar who fakes his death just to raise his sales: an accountant who is prepared to rip off her deadly dangerous boss twice simply out of pathological boredom: a Russian gangster/property tycoon (no resemblance to an actual Russian London-football-club-owning tycoon intended, my arse) whose idea of security is to transfer 7 million Euros across London via two unarmed banking clerks: a high-flying lawyer who is prepared to illegally reveal the identity of an important underworld grass simply on the chance of a screw with a two-bit piece of rough. In a world where beautiful women can easily (and literally) be bought, Thandie Newton as the Accountant manages to pull off the trick of being irresistable by simply smoking a lot, blinking rather than talking, and being coldly unavailable.

On the plus side the characters are well-played (and the central Rocknrolla, a junkie rockstar played by Tobie Kebbel, is both charismatic and impressive). It's blackly funny, witty and has a great soundtrack. I enjoyed both Eastern Promises and In Bruges more, but I'd happily watch this again. And the promised sequels.

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