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Film review: 'RocknRolla' overplotted, convoluted

Published: Friday, Oct. 31 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

Gerard Butler stars as One Two in the action film "RocknRolla."

Warner Bros. Pictures

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ROCKNROLLA — *** — Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton; rated R (profanity, violence, drugs, torture, slurs, vulgarity, gore, sex, brief partial nudity)

As with even the very best of his works, screenwriter/director Guy Ritchie's supposed comeback movie, "RocknRolla," is at least as heavy on blah-blah-blah dialogue as it is on slam-bang action.

That's because the film is overplotted, convoluted and more than a little contrived. And it takes a lot of dialogue for Ritchie and his characters to break things down for the audience, just so they can follow what's going on here.

Also, the darkly comic thriller is pretty violent and crude, and as such, it definitely isn't for all audiences.

But those with stronger sensibilities might enjoy themselves. After all, it is a lot more like Ritchie's earlier movies — "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (1998) and "Snatch" (2000) — than it is like his disastrous 2002 remake of "Swept Away," which nearly ended his career.

As you'd expect, Ritchie returns his focus to double-crossing crooks and would-be criminals. Gerard Butler ("300") stars as One Two, a small-time hood who, along with his partner, Mumbles (Idris Elba), is wanting to get into London's lucrative real-estate dealings.

They're trying to work something out with shady mover-and-shaker Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson), who is more interested in bigger fish. Cole wants to profit from the development schemes of a rich Russian mobster named Uri (Karel Roden).

However, One Two and Mumbles steal a huge bank transfer (millions of Euros are involved) from that same Russian mobster, which then sets off a string of violent reprisals and even-worse things.

At nearly two full hours, the movie is too long. And there are too many characters as well — Thandie Newton appears as a conniving accountant, while Jeremy Piven and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges are bungling promoters — though Ritchie has assembled a very good cast to play them all.

Butler and Wilkinson are both very good, as is Elba (HBO's "The Wire"), whose character begs for more screen time.

But they, like everyone else, are upstaged by Mark Strong and Toby Kebbell, who are terrific as Lenny's right-hand man/enforcer and Lenny's drug-addled rock star stepson, respectively. It's no wonder Ritchie is already mulling over a follow-up featuring these two.

"RocknRolla" is rated R and features strong sexual language (profanity, crude slang and other suggestive talk), disturbing violent content (including shootings, stabbings, beatings, vehicular mayhem and violence against women, implied), drug content and references (marijuana and crack cocaine), scenes depicting torture and interrogation, derogatory language (including slurs based on nationality and sexual preference), other crudities, gore and blood, simulated sex and other sexual contact (mostly implied), and brief partial male nudity. Running time: 114 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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