RocknRolla (2008) (R)

I should probably start by saying that I'm not a Guy Ritchie fan. I don't like his humor, I don't like his style, I haven't seen a movie that he's directed that I've liked...yet, I saw "RocknRolla" and as much as I wanted to hate it, I couldn't. It's a very entertaining movie that swings between hilarious, exciting, and terrifically painful many, many times.
Ritchie, who had tried many times to make a London mob movie (and has failed all times, this one included) seems to live for the situations instead of the plot. Watching "RocknRolla" is much like watching ants swarm. So many different groups and cliques mesh into each other, brushing the others' circles so many times that you start to become confused with who knows who. It seems like everyone has either met, fornicated with, threatened, or shared passing looks with everyone else in this movie. It's good to assume that you are watching a big extended family whose members occasionally want to murder their distance cousins.
As much as Ritchie lives for these situations, as evidenced in "RocknRolla" by scenes in which a character's sexuality is tossed around like a volleyball for discussion—it is also seen in how a painting keeps disappearing, how mob bosses interact with each other, and how real family is something that's quite ugly—he can't quite nail down his plot to the ground. By the time the end rolls around and a third act reveal appears out of thin air, I discovered that I couldn't care less about who was the secret informant...but that's just me.
The movie has several different a food chain. At the top are the bosses. The current leader of London is a extortion expert named Lenny who's played by Tom Wilkinson as his usual threatening and slightly hyperbolic hustler.
One Two (Gerard Butler), Mumbles (Idris Elba), and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy) are the thug-like characters and yes, those are their names. In an effort to create vivid and wonderful characters, Ritchie (who also wrote the screenplay) seems to have created caricatures of every style of person.
There are hit men who for all purposes are completely invincible, junkies who have deep and aching wounds from the childhood, mobsters who are only in it for the money, and then the just plain weird.
I'm pretty sure that SNL did a shtick about Guy Ritchie movies and how unintelligible everyone sounds in the movie...I could be wrong about the SNL-thing, but the point remains the same: nobody makes any sense in the movie.
Tom Hardy manages to pull off a surprisingly convincing role for most of the movie, but the script randomly dissolves back into stereotypes, destroying anything it had going for it in the first place.
Yet, there is an undeniable watchability to "RocknRolla". Perhaps it's the action or the humor that makes the film so likable. In all fairness, it has several resemblances to the Coen brother's movies and I would wager that it's nearly impossible to predict.
So, yes, the movie is blindingly entertaining; but completely and totally hollow. At least you know what you're getting into. Ritchie loves those instances of confusion and here he does them true justice.
Ritchie has peaked my interest...I shall hesitantly watch more.

Score: ★★★

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