The best praise one can offer RocknRolla is that it’s much better than Revolver, Ritchie’s previous film. But I’ve seen Scientology recruitment films that are better than Revolver, an unwatchable morass of Kabbalist hoo-ha and brain-damaged quantum physics. RocknRolla is supposed to be a return to form for Ritchie, but instead it puts him in direct competition with his younger filmmaking self. It’s nowhere near a fair fight.
Here are the good points of RocknRolla: Gerard Butler is affable enough as One Two, a criminal in the employ of criminal accountant Stella (Thandie Newton, gorgeous but shallow), and Tom Wilkinson—who should be stuffed and mounted on the sad day of his passing for future generations of humanity to appreciate—is riveting as a generic Ritchie mob boss. There is one decent scene—a botched robbery that becomes a savage battle for survival—in the entire movie, and even that has all the dramatic piss taken out of it by being told as a flashback by one of the principal players.
But we’d be here all day if I were to list every one of the film’s missteps. Suffice it to say there’s no tension, the characters are generic, and Ritchie’s trademark tangle of characters and plots doesn’t make any sense. Why would a Russian crime boss loan his very special lucky painting to Wilkinson’s inept gangster in the first place? The plot is unclear on the matter, and so when everyone heads out in pursuit of the inexplicably stolen painting, the stakes couldn’t be any lower.
The biggest travesty of RocknRolla requires me to spoil the ending. Ready? THERE IS NO ENDING. The film actually ends with a promise that the story will continue in a sequel, called The Real RocknRolla, and Ritchie has declared these films to be a trilogy in the making. None of RocknRolla’s plots are tied together, with the exception of one major character’s death, which is presented in such an apathetic fashion that it actually cheapens the already unimpressive movie that came before. It takes real balls to announce a sequel to a movie at the end of a comeback movie, and it takes a heroic act of imagination to believe anybody besides Ritchie actually gives a shit about these characters. If the universe is a good and just place, the proposed trilogy will be aborted with the swift and decisive failure of this awful, awful movie at the box office.