Year 2008

Gerard Butler as  One Two  
Tom Wilkinson as Lenny Cole
Thandie Newton   as Stella Baxter
Mark Strong as Archy
Idris Elba as Mumbles
Tom Hardy as Handsome Bob  
Director - Guy Ritchie
Screenwriter - Guy Ritchie

Was this movie filmed before or after Guy Ritchie split from Madonna? If it was before, then what great things must be in store for us movie watchers now that he's out from under her creativity draining influence. If it was after, then let's cut the man some slack. He spent years with a woman who can suck out someone's life force through their eyes. (It's just conjecture, but look at Sean Penn.)

If all you know about Guy Ritchie is that he was Madonna's husband, then you don't know enough. Before he met Madonna, he gave us Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels as well as Snatch. Both movies had lots in common, like good acting, directing, a sense of humor, a periodically manic pace, and lots of characters that came together for the most flawed of reasons. The first movie suffered from a lame ending the likes of which I haven't seen since the first Italian Job, but it's still worth watching.

In fact, I'll watch either movie whenever they're on commercial free cable. For example, I won't watch them on Spike or USA or TNT or TBS.

What can you expect from a Guy Ritchie film? What makes it different than say, a Soderberg film? (I picked Soderberg because he's unimaginative and pedestrian.) Well, instead of the movie plodding along at an slow pace and building to a final denouement where everything wraps up like one of Soderberg's big budget made for TV movies, Ritchie varies the pace and timing and sometimes even the order of events.

Ritchie is closer to Troy Duffy (The Boondock Saints) or even Quentin Tarrantino with his approach to story telling. That approach is, "I'm going to set up a scene and hit the high points so you won't be bored." It keeps the movie jumping.

Some people may not like the style because there are a lot of edits, but I find it entertaining. Talk about stray thoughts! The first time I saw a style like this was back in the sixties on the television show "The Monkees". Ritchie, Duffy, Tarrantino, et al. have elevated it to an art form.

So what's the plot? Why do you think there's just one? Ritchie deals with subplots and individual motivations. But, like C.W. Jung's Conjunction, unseen forces conspire to bring everyone together at crucial loci. Like synchronicity, sometimes there's no reason behind connected events.

(Put Jung on your "to read" list. The book "The Essential Jung" is dry but quite enlightening.)

Anyway, the movie centers around the British version of The Mob. In this movie, Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) is in the critical path of all shady real estate dealings. There's an equally shady Russian who wants to invest in land and purchases Cole's services to ensure that all the paperwork is handled. Sounds simple.

Now add the twists.

It's a testament to Guy Ritchie that, with all of this going on, the viewer doesn't get lost.

Ritchie keeps each character unique by providing them with some individual trait or giving them a clever name. For example, for the character with the ordinary name of Archy, Ritchie gives him "the slap" with a great Jungian explanation.

The dialogue is always entertaining.

Stella leaves One Two after discussing a robbery she's helping him plan.
One Two: "Nice shoes by the way."
Stella: "Thank you. You'll be able to afford a pair of your own in a couple of days."

One Two (Gerard Butler) does a good job as the Mel Gibson bad boy. He's coarse featured but engaging. Supposedly the best looking one is Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy). Really? As soon as he smiles, he's becomes an advertisement against socialized dentistry. A scene stealer because of presence is Stella (Thandie Newton). She's a cold one, but not unlikable.

The real scene stealer is Toby Kebbell as Cole's stepson. He's got a lot wrong with him. He's a musician who's faking his own death to boost record sales, he's a junkie, and he's got baggage made of steamer trunks. He's also an Iggy Pop knock off. This is a good thing.

There's a lot of violence and one fine chase scene. There's great background music and those ever present frenetic edits that keep things moving.

Gratuitous nudity in a film bothers me unless the purpose of the film is to be a medium for gratuitous nudity. There's none here, which I appreciate. There is the requisite sex scene that mercifully lasts for only about ten seconds thanks to great edits.

Here's a recap of the sex scene. A shot of his face with an accompanying grunt. A shot of her face and a grunt. A second shot of his face and his second grunt. A second shot of her face and her second grunt.

Point made without interfering with the pacing of the movie.

What's unsatisfying about the movie is the ending. It's better than Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels but only just. Things wrap up a little too pat and not that cleverly. (Think of a recent Matt Damon movie.) Also, you can take the explanation of synchronicity a little too far to justify coincidences. Then there's the RockNRolla version of The Blob ending, a movie where the words "the end" morphed into a question mark. In RockNRolla there's no question mark, but there's something about a sequel called The Real RockNRolla. Alas, the sequel will probably never be made because Guy Ritchie's making a fortune sticking with Sherlock Holmes.

No nudity. Lots of profanity. Too much blasphemy. Probably won't offend a date, but won't entice her either. Oh, and watch the first part of the credits to see how One Two made Handsome Bob's last night of freedom memorable.

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