RocknRolla is extremely similar in tone and format to director Guy Ritchie's other films, and I must say I'm starting to think that his movies are only as good as the actors in them. Snatch is a good ensemble piece overall, but the most memorable parts are due to standout performances by actors like Brad Pitt and Alan Ford. Though not as good a film as Snatch, RocknRolla similarly benefits from some fine performers, in this case Tom Wilkinson, Mark Strong, and Toby Kebbell, among other members of the extensive cast in this convoluted story.
And by convoluted I mean I'm not sure I can even get into the plot here without writing another six paragraphs or so. Suffice to say there are a couple high-level criminal guys (played by Tom Wilkinson, Mark Strong and others), a resourceful accountant (Thandie Newton), a few bumbling low-level thugs (Gerard Butler, Idris Elba, Tom Hardy), and a druggie rock star, Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell) all chasing around large amounts of money and/or a beloved painting. There are a lot of men behaving badly because they had cruel fathers. There's a good amount of violence (often paired with great music) and torture mixed with dry, dark humor. It's funny and exciting — but not consistently so. For more on what I mean, read more.
The beginning is slow to build, with tons of details to take in at once, and sometimes the story is downright uninteresting. But the ending is exciting enough to make you forget the entire hour or so that came before it. Maybe that's Ritchie's shtick: Saving the best, most memorable parts for last so you're left with the impression that it was a great movie.
So, is it worth it? That depends. If you haven't liked any of Ritchie's stuff in the past, this movie will definitely not change your opinion. If you've never seen his movies, start with Snatch and make RocknRolla last on the list. And for any fan of his, RocknRolla is worth it for the helluva good ride we get to take in the last third or so of the movie.
Oh, also: We get a brief glimpse of Gerard Butler's bare backside. So. There's that.
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.