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RocknRolla /

Rated: R

Starring: Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Idris Elba, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges

Directed by: Guy Ritchie

Produced by: Joel Silver, Guy Ritchie, Steve Clark Hall, Susan Downey
Written by: Guy Ritchie
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

     Would it be unprofessional of me to admit that I zoned out about a half a dozen times during the press screening of Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla? Would it disqualify me from reviewing the film because I didn’t cling to every single frame of the film with undivided attention? 

     I’m making the above two admissions. If you think my opinion of the film is bogus because of them, then stop reading now. I’m going to review RocknRolla because I think my reaction to it is as valid as any other. Sure, I may not have picked up on every plot-element of the picture as I dazed off into La-La Land due to my sheer apathy towards the material, but I sat through the whole thing and, for that painful experience, I sure as hell should be able to write about it. In other words, I see the need to warn potential ticket-buyers—$10 is on the line here, $20 if it’s a date—that they may indeed find themselves as bored to tears with the picture as I was. I may not have digested every aspect of RocknRolla, but I got more than my proper fill.

     I should tell you about the plot—yes, I stayed with RocknRolla long enough to be able to explain the set-up in a coherent manner, although in retrospect I wish I hadn’t—but I don’t want the synopsis to entice you if British crime movies are your thing. Ritchie ain’t no Danny Boyle. I would make mention the characters instead, but that would require telling you about the actors, who all do fine jobs in their roles and collectively represent a knock-out cast. Nonetheless, they do not save the dead-on-arrival RocknRolla one bit, and I don’t want you to think that they do.

     This was my first Ritchie film, so I don’t really feel qualified to comment on how it stacks up against the rest. I will say that if their reputation for being incoherent, hyper-stylized bore-fests  that contain unhealthy amounts of edits is accurate and deserved, than RocknRolla is right at home in the Ritchie arsenal. And that was exactly my problem with the film: I felt like it was beating me senseless after only about twenty minutes of watching it. Sure, there were some good performances and some cleverly-framed shots, but I didn’t care because they were lost in a rough of stylized emptiness. Ritchie gave me no reason to care about what happened in his film. The characters and plot exist just so their writer/director has an excuse to engage his own A.D.D. tendencies. Because the viewer has no reason to care about these elements, said viewer also has no reason to put a vested interest in what happens in the film. The cycle that results is miserable: boredom sets in, the viewer zones out, and because the film is so chock-full of plot for every one of its 114 minutes the viewer then loses touch with what’s going on. This process repeats itself and film in turn gets even more boring when the viewer is left without a comprehendible story to follow.

     Had I seen RocknRolla under normal circumstances in a multiplex without having promised the studio a review, I probably would’ve walked out. This is not by a long-shot the worst film I have ever seen, but it may be the most apathy-inducing. Normally I’d get angry if I missed a plot element due to my own careless zoning-out, but here I felt happy this gave me reason to zone-out some more.

     Four days after seeing RocknRolla, I mostly—as you can glean—recall only the sense of irritated ambivalence the film provoked in me. But I also remember a few small fragments of good that I was able to take notice of once I had accepted that the dizzying plot had lost me. There’s a quiet scene in which two thugs discuss their battle-bruises competitively before a loud moment of action perfectly juxtaposes two tones. There’s a scene in a club with a focal character’s band playing that is beautifully-shot and not schizophrenic like a lot of the rest of the movie. And there are some great moments involving the always-reliable Tom Wilkinson’s piggish, extortionist crime-boss, even if they’re often overshadowed by Ritchie’s frequent overindulgences. But these are only mere moments. While they might signal that Ritchie may one day make a good film—for all I know, perhaps he already has, unlikely as it might seem—they only go to highlight just how obnoxious, uninteresting, and unnecessary the whole of RocknRolla is by comparison. To put it bluntly, the film blows.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 10.5.2008

Screened on: 10.2.2008 in Screening Room 5 at the WB Lot in Burbank, CA.


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