Is there a filmmaker in Britain who’s been more derided than Mr Madonna? A bit unfair all this criticism is too: it’s not Guy Ritchie’s fault that the competent, very watchable gangster flicks Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch were some of the most overrated films of all time. And let’s be honest, Swept Away could have been Citizen Kane (it wasn’t) and we’d still have slammed Ritchie for putting his bad-acting superstar wife in the frame. Meanwhile, nonsensical psychological gangster picture Revolver wasn’t as bad as all those terrible reviews made out ‐ at least it showed an ambition to be different that’s often lacking in Brit flicks.
So here we are at film five and Ritchie is playing this one as safe as houses. We’re back in London, a city that’s seen such an economic boom that the criminals deal in houses and works of art rather than hanging about street corners or rubbing shoulders with rouble billionaires. As is Ritchie’s wont, the story is told with a signature narration and follows the pursuits of a bunch of get-rich-quick, bumbling, loveable rogues who could have walked straight off the set of an Ealing comedy. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, just ask the Coen Brothers, but familiarity has made these personalities seem tired and uninspired.
The object of every criminal’s desire is to become a RocknRolla, a man who wants and has it all ‐ girls, money, drugs and celebrity status. In telling the story Ritchie shows trademark flashes of visual panache and humour as the hoodlums run around in circles trying to outdo one another. Toby Kebbell playing a punk rock star, Thandie Newton as an accountant, Tom Wilkinson essaying a criminal kingpin and Tom Hardy as gay hoodlum Handsome Bob, all shine.
It’s all perfectly serviceable, but still leaves us guessing over whether Ritchie is just a one-trick pony. Only time will tell.
On General release from Fri 5 Sep.