I’m not sure if I’ve ever left a movie quite so depressed as when I left Rocknrolla. I’m well aware that Eagle Eye made me hate movies, but for Rocknrolla I found myself bereft of words. When I see movies, even as I’m watching them I think what to write about them. Most of it never gets written or published, but I edit and revise in my head as I go along nonetheless. On Rocknrolla I drew a blank. The movie itself is like an oyster interrupted: an almost imperceptible gleam of a pearl surrounded by excrement. Some o fit doesn’t make sense, even if you’re paying attention. Some of it is obvious to the point of insulting. Most notably, the macguffin is the fucking briefcase from Pulp Fiction (so, too, is the gay S&M torture rape scene, this time in Russian!).
It may be a waste, but hey!, at least it’s a long and tedious one.
London crime boss Lenny wants to build something, get in on a real estate scam, so he gets Russian immigrant crime boss Uri to finance him, but Uri’s accountant is dodgy – so seven million euros get stolen twice. Also Uri’s “lucky painting” is stolen by Lenny’s step-son and how was this ever a good idea?
Firstly, it’s difficult to tell who the narrator is because he sounds like no one who is actually in the film. I was going to guess that it was One Two (Gerard Butler, ostensibly one of the main characters, who keeps churning out these “mildly homophobic hard man” roles) before I looked it up (I missed the start of the movie): it’s Lenny’s number two man, Archie. Why is he narrating the film again?
Secondly, most of the time it’s difficult to make out what’s going on even when outcomes are projected very plainly. Honestly, why does everyone in movies come out by telling one of their friends that they’re in love with him? That’s certainly a way to further ingratiate yourself into the hardman underworld that you’ve inhabited for however many years.
For an opening Friday audience, it was surprisingly small, and also tought to make out what was thought of the piece by the masses. I know a lot of it fell in the crowd of “gay = ew = funny”, but … at this point, writing on the train, I began to run out of material. Here’s an attempt at systematically tackling just a few of the problems:
- Thandie Newton’s character (ever notice that in UK films Newton is elegant and beautiful, while the US makes her a shrew?) pulls off the same robbery twice. This is not just the slightest bit suspect?
- The Eastern bloc heavies on the second heist are a pair of indestructible terminators, which is played for laughs but is mostly motivated by nothing much. They turn out to be ones for torture and rape before they go in for murder (on that note, ever notice that raping a woman is heinous while raping a man is hilarious?);
- The rockstar stepson is a pivotal character but is complete bollocks, a junkie with no redeeming features Until he displays a hithertofore undetected savvy (or smart-arsedness) about the workings of the criminal underworld – and he also bears the distinction of being a rock star who goes completely unrecognised absolutely everywhere in London, and is broke (contradicting the evidence of “don’t buy drugs; become a rock star and they’ll give them to you for free!”);
- You also have a gay intrigue plotline that bears fruit in the mole plotline while simultaneously going nowhere;
- One of the biggest threats in the film is dispatched offscreen with barely an explanation.
The movie isn’t a total write off, just most of one. The last scenes in the factory over the Thames are easily the best parts of the film. At times, it’s even a little compelling. It’s very intermittently amusing, although never hilarious and, again, it relies on a totally inaccurate portrayal of gay people for laughs (really, is there really a place in London where men can go slow dancing to Latin music in front of a neon love heart while wearing leather?) and, frankly, I zoned out at several points.
The cast is very good; the movie itself is not. There is the germ of a good movie in here, and it’s not like Guy Ritchie hasn’t written and directed movies before, but this one seems a bit like it’s in love with itself and a bit like I don’t give a damn. You really don’t need to see it – or its two projected sequels. It seriously ends with a “The Wild Bunch will return in The Real Rocknrolla“. It’s kind of like a punch in the gut served atop a rage cake: don’t do it, son.