Rock n Rolla
Ash Akhtar 29/08/2008
Sex, thugs and rock n roll…
Guy Ritchie is back to revive his career with a film about a dead, junkie rock n' roll star (who is alive) hiding from the public to boost record sales and his evil step dad gangster with a penchant for torturing people with crayfish. Add some indestructible, Russian gangsters, a splash of homophobic humour, a crooked accountant and you've got the convoluted outline to the plot of Rock n Rolla. Ritchie attempts to link all strands of the story together with a Pulp Fiction-esque golden thread: in this case a 'lucky' painting that we never see. Deep stuff indeed!
Rock n Rolla introduces the characters with animation sequences and narration (sound familiar?), though the use of these methods is nowhere near as clever or exciting as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or even Snatch; and that almost serves to sum up this entire film.
But let's talk characters - after all, this is where Ritchie excels. The usually superb Toby Kebbel (Johnny Quid) emulates Nick Moran's character in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels with a dash of junkie chic, delivering his lines with measured, stunted delivery.
Is this because Ritchie is incapable of coaxing any other performance from an actor, or are his scripts so one-dimensional that it is impossible for an actor to release themselves from the written constraints?
Whatever the reason, most of the performances here, by superb actors, are typical wide-boy caricatures that you've seen before. Unfortunately, whereas we felt for Ritchie's previous characters, there is nothing endearing whatsoever about any of the characters on show here. Kebbel's Quid, like most of the characters in Rock n Rolla, is morally stilted and gratuitously violent, and yet you fear none of them.
The dialogue lacks spark, occasionally dissolving into slapstick, providing some brief moments of humour. It's not all bad; rapper Ludacris (Chris Bridges) turns in a good performance and there are flashes of Ritchie's previous brilliance. Sadly, the rest of the package sours these flashes. And as any fan of Lock, Stock knows - 'If the milk turns out to be sour, I 'aint the type of pussy to drink it'.