So you don’t have to ask, yes, this is the return of the Guy Ritchie that we all fell in love with after “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch.” The douchebag that made “Swept Away” is nowhere to be found in this stylish crime thriller, and the world is better for it.
I’m going to take a stab at a synopsis, but I know I’m going to fail miserably. As you may expect from a Ritchie film, nothing is simple and the plot gets insanely complicated as the film rolls on. Which is fine when you’re watching, not so much when you’re, ahem, trying to explain it to someone. Here goes…
Lenny Cole (Wilkinson) is the kingpin of the London crime scene, particularly when it comes to real estate. Apparently there’s no better scam in town then purchasing property at one price and then making fortunes off it as the value escalates. One Two (Butler) and his partner Mumbles (Elbra) are interested in capitalizing on the real estate market, and take out a loan with Cole. Unfortunately, they can’t get the paperwork cleared, and find themselves without an investment or a way to pay back Cole (who, as it turns out, is the reason the paperwork was stopped; he now owns the property, and wants his loan back on top of it).
Enter rich Russian developer Uri (Roden), who wants to build in London but wants to get through the proper channels without delay. He hires Cole to grease the wheels, at a payday of $7 million euros, and lets Cole borrow Uri’s favorite painting, as a sign of good faith until the deal is finished all-around. Of course, this $7 million is to be delivered under the table, so Uri has to get his accountant, Stella (Newton), to fix the books to clear the money.
Stella craves excitement, however, and decides she’d much rather get some of the money. So she hires One Two and Mumbles to rob the $7 million euros, which solves their problems as they get the $2 million euros that they need to pay Cole back. And if it were that simple, this wouldn’t be a Guy Ritchie film.
It can get confusing, and the list of characters to keep track of definitely grows, especially when the lucky painting gets stolen by Johnny Quid (Kebbell), junkie rock star and estranged stepson of Cole. Still, you can keep track of it if you pay attention.
Now, the idea of the real estate market as a haven for organized criminal activity may’ve, at first, sounded boring and unbelievable, but considering the current economic crisis in the United States, the idea feels much more realistic. Hell, if Ritchie could’ve figured out a way to have the mobsters get a government bailout by the end of the film, I’d think he was making a documentary. Anyway…
As far as acting goes, no one drops the ball. Wilkinson is in rare form as a pompous crime lord (think a more mouthy version of his mob boss in “Batman Begins”) and Butler is particularly amusing as the everyday criminal in way over his head. There’s not a weak link to the piece, and even Jeremy Piven and rapper Ludacris acquit themselves nicely to the proceedings (though the necessity of their characters is questionable).
If you’re a fan of the early Ritchie comedy-crime thrillers, then this is not only right up your alley, it’s a long lost relative returning home. I can’t say 100% that Ritchie has regained his seemingly lost potential, mainly because he needs another great film or two before we can say definitively whether he’s a good director, or just a good parrot of his own style (Wes Anderson, I’m staring at you too), but “RocknRolla” doesn’t disappoint.