Rocknroller is smart and extremely witty. As a caper is clever, quick-paced and artistic. In fact, some of it is completely LOL, not unlike some of the more entertaining heist films.
This is not to say the film has any socially redeeming value. Yet as I write this at the end of the day, I believe it does, because it is actually – art.
The story is as convoluted as they come. Ritchie uses voice-overs to introduce all the people/elements of the narrative. Some people think this technique is lazy filmmaking; I tend to think that it works here because it becomes funnier and funnier as each improbable character and situation is introduced to thinken the plot.
It’s very much a guy (sic) film. It tells the story of the real estate boom in London’s east end and all the graft and corruption that (supposedly) underpins the development – perpetrated by men with one exception – the Thandie Newton character. She’s greedy, too, and knows how to manipulate the guys, but we need the sequel to know why.
Ritchie says this is a film about his London. I lived there for two years (1993-1995), but in the far west end in Kensington, so my experience doesn’t count much because I completely missed the gangsters. But you have to like most of these characters. Greed drives the action; some of the characters know it and some discover what this means when they are submerged in an underground tank filled with American crawfish. The characters, for the most part, are exactly the kind of people I met in London who looked scruffy or as odd as they come but would step aside and open the door for a lady.
An unseen framed art piece is the film’s MacGuffin and I imagine that we will find out what it depicts in the sequel – and I do hope there is one.
I truly liked and enjoyed this film. I think it comes from the sense similar to what you experience art that is so well executed that you know you have witnessed something close to genius – even if it is not everyone’s cup of tea. I think Ritchie has created genuine art.
Themes that emerged are friendship, innocence, child abuse and its consequences, injustice/justice, morality/immorality, greed, belonging, comedy, family, betrayal, male identity, and more.
About the violence: there is a lot of it but perhaps not as graphic as it could have been. It is more on an extreme 3 Stooges level rather than the Cronenberg end of the spectrum.
About the language: I always tell people, if you have issues with language remember that it often stands as a “character” in a film because language demands attention if only to point to the other characters’ spiritual poverty and lack of imagination.
In Ritchie’s drugged, hard rock universe, there are reasons why these men seem so unattached to conventional morality and why they cling to friends or just use people. In some ways, this is a depraved culture, in other ways it is sad and lonely. But Ritchie has taken those who are naught to confound the dickens out of those who are. Perhaps in another film we will discover more. For now, this is enough.
Have you noticed Mark Strong? He has been around forever, but he first got my attention in Syriana and then more so in Body of Lies. If you check his name on www.imdb.com you can see that he is busier than ever. In Rocknroller he plays Archie, crime boss Lenny’s (Tom Wilkinson) right hand man. Mark Strong is an outstanding actor – as are most of the cast.
As a media literacy specialist I always want to know if a film will make any difference in the culture. Surely how a person interprets a film depends on each person’s life experience, education, moral development. Seen in the context of the world of film, Rocknroller is entertaining; thoughful viewers would find something to talk about. Within the context of the genre and story the film’s inner logic holds. Does it shed light on humanity? Again, that depends on the person. But will it make you laugh? It is highly probable if this is your genre.
Bravo, Guy Ritchie.
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