Gotta hand it to Guy Ritchie of “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” fame. What other writer/director can forge an entire career without creating one reasonable facsimile of a character?
Don’t get me wrong. Ritchie’s films are chock full of Characters, no doubt.
But they never come anywhere close to resembling real people. They’re just a collection of tics and poses who just so happen to look like famous actors.
Ritchie is at it again in “RocknRolla,” his latest Cockney crime caper.
As always, it takes a while for us to realize we’ve been snookered. “RocknRolla” starts with the anatomy of a grift, or several, really. It all revolves around a real estate deal built on a foundation of lies and intimidation.
The key players include an aging power broker (Tom Wilkinson), a two-bit hit man (Gerard Butler), a Russian entrepreneur (Karel Roden) and a rock star (Toby Kebbell, the film’s best asset) who may or may not be dead.
How these players fight, swear and preen makes up the bulk of the film. All the snazzy camera tricks and on-screen swagger grabs you by the scruff of the neck, but ultimately it only barks out a few empty threats before letting you go.
The main characters get great nicknames like One Two, Mumbles and Handsome Bob, but they’re left without anything resembling a back story. We’re treated to a slinky turn by the hard-working Thandie Newton, but her dance scene with Butler’s character feels like a faded Xerox of the Travolta-Thurman shuffle in “Pulp Fiction.”
All posturing. No heat.
One day, Ritchie will either learn to tell an honest to God story, or he’ll find a collaborator who can use the best of his gifts and merge them with his own storytelling instincts.
Until then, we’ll await the promised sequel to “RocknRolla” — all the while knowing it’ll be the same ol’ Ritchie movie with just a few casting changes.
(Photo: Gerard Butler is being chased into a deserted tunnel in Guy Ritchie’s “Rocknrolla.”)