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RocknRolla (2008)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 1/27/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/27/2009

Despite the ways in which the tabloids often present their stories, I rarely have any sympathy for celebrities. (Unless they've been involved in a real tragedy, such as the recent death of John Travolta's son.) I don't think that there's anything wrong with viewing the rich and famous as "normal" people, but since they have so many advantages than the rest of us, it's often hard to feel sorry for them if they get a hangnail. But, there are exceptions to every rule, and I must say that I feel bad for Guy Ritchie. Here's a man who has made five feature films, some of which have garnered a great deal of praise, but much of the world knows him as Madonna's ex-husband. Throughout their relationship and especially during the divorce, Ritchie's accomplishments were rarely mentioned. Now, that I've seen his latest film, RocknRolla, I can understand why Ritchie would want to keep his profession out of the papers.

RocknRolla explores the seedy underbelly of London by following several criminal characters. Lenny (Tom Wilkinson) is a local kingpin who makes his fortune by controlling much of the real estate in the area. His right-hand man, Archie (Mark Strong), keeps tabs on Lenny's business and keeps the underlings in line. One Two (Gerard Butler) and Mumbles (Idris Elba) are small-time crooks who are members of a circle known as The Wild Bunch. However, they want to go legit and look into buying a building. Lenny informs them that it will cost them $2 million dollars to get approved (zoning? permits?) -- which is $2 million that they don't have. Lenny is approached by Uri (Karel Roden), a Russian who wants to build an arena in London. Uri's accountant, Stella (Thandie Newton), tips off One Two about a bank transfer so that One Two can rob the drivers and have the money for his building. Meanwhile, Lenny's stepson, rocker Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbel), has fallen off of a boat and is presumed dead. All of these characters will eventually cross paths and they will all learn that no one can be trusted.

The only other Guy Ritchie movie that I've seen was Snatch, and other than the fact that I couldn't understand a word that Brad Pitt said, I really don't remember it very well. However, I always hear about Ritchie's style and his energetic films. Well, he must have changed or toned-down that style with RocknRolla, because this movie is unoriginal and boring.

It's funny that I say that, because Ritchie (who also wrote the film) is actually trying far too hard to make the film quirky. Every character has a slight affectation which is supposed to make them fun and unique. But, everything seems forced. Take, for example, the character Tank (Nonso Anozie). He's a large Black man who likes to sell theater tickets and watch Pride and Prejudice. Isn't that fun and quirky? Not especially, no. Ritchie is trying so hard to make the characters interesting that he forgets to make the characters interesting. One Two is too bland, Archie is too stoic, and Lenny is too mean. None of the characters are particularly likeable and there is no one here to serve as a link to the audience.

Ritchie must have done something right in the editing of the film, because there are a lot of characters and storylines going on here, and they never get confusing or blurred. The problem is that they are never particularly engrossing either. These gangsters are all stereotypes which we've seen in other films and none of their exploits feel inspired. The movie only contains a few action scenes, otherwise we are treated to dialogue which is stilted and trite. The movie is never funny or exciting, and its nearly 2 hour running time really drags on. Ironically, the last 10 minutes of RocknRolla do presents some plot twists which are actually interesting, but they feel like a cop out and don't really mesh with the rest of the movie.

I really didn't know what to expect from RocknRolla, but I never expected to be so bored by it. Everything about this movie is uninspired and one can't help but wonder if Ritchie cranked this out to continue his reputation as the main maker of British gangster movies. A game cast goes to waste, and the fact that the film ends with the idea that there will be a sequel feels more like a threat than a promise.

RocknRolla can't drive a stick-shift on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only very slight grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good and the image is never too dark or bright. I did note some mild video noise and the image is somewhat soft at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and show a nice degree of separation. The surround sound effects are good as well, especially in crowd scenes. The in-film music sounds good and the action scenes provide mild subwoofer action.

The RocknRolla DVD contains only a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Guy Ritchie and actor Mark Strong. The DVD contains one DELETED SCENE which runs about 2 minutes. It's a brief scene between One, Two and Mumble which wouldn't have added anything to the film. In "Guy's Town" (9 minutes), Director Guy Ritchie talks about London and how modern-day London is reflected in the film. Ritchie talks about how London has changed, not only in architecture, but in the way that business is done. There is a lot of footage of the city here. There are also profiles of some of the main locations in the film.

Warner Home Video has also brought RocknRolla to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The image has a very nice depth to it and the level of detail is impressive. The colors look fine and the brightness of the image is well-balanced. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are quite good and we can hear every tinkling piece of glass in the car wreck scene. This same scene and the party scene show off the power of the surround sound in the track. The music has a nice "oomph" here and there are some moments of solid subwoofer work.

The Blu-ray Disc contains the same extras as the DVD, plus one more. "Blokes, Birds, and Backhanders: Inside RocknRolla" (15 minutes) is a making-of featurette which contains comments from the cast and filmmakers. It looks at the actors and characters, the story, and the locations.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long