I blame Madonna. Her nagging influence is the only reason one of the most promising directors of the 90’s is churning out garbage like ROCK ‘N ROLLA today. Or maybe it has nothing to do with Guy Ritchie’s failed marriage to the succubus and instead, Ritchie just ran out of stories to tell and his fast paced, ADHD directing and British narration aren’t enough to carry his films anymore. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I still go into each Ritchie film hoping the streak of convoluted, mundane stories will be broken and we can get back to why I liked him so much in the first place. But ROCK ‘N ROLLA is not the end to that streak, so here’s hoping SHERLOCK HOLMES will be.
Despite the title, ROCK ‘N ROLLA has virtually nothing to do with the music style and instead, has everything to do with the seedy underbelly of London. I know, you’re shocked that would be the focus of a Guy Ritchie film, but it’s true. We have several characters vying for screen time, but the film mostly centers on One Two (Gerard Butler), who owes Lenny (Tom Wilkinson) some money, who is working a business deal with Uri (Karl Roden) who lent Lenny a painting that was stolen by Johnny (Toby Kebbell), who is being sought out by Mickey (Ludacris) and Roman (Jeremy Piven). To Ritchie’s credit, the story really isn’t that complicated, despite his attempts to add in unnecessary plot points and boring scenes.
The problem with the story is that the audience doesn’t care…at all. These aren’t charming characters or people we want to see succeed. In fact, we don’t want to see them at all. Not one of these characters are even remotely interesting and I spent the entire time hoping there’d be some giant shoot out in which everyone would be put out of their misery. But a giant shootout in this film would take away from the boredom Guy Ritchie has so carefully crafted under the guise of a heist movie. But unlike his two successes (LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS and SNATCH), there’s no mystery or building intensity to a climax. We pretty much know everything that has happened and we can guess the outcome long before it’s spelled out for us. My suggestion for Mr. Ritchie would be to stop trying to cram characters into your films and to spend more time on developing fewer characters with a better plot.
Overall, this is just a jumbled mess of a movie that has very little to offer as far as plot and substance. Sure, there are a lot of people running around on screen and there are a lot of things happening, but they are neither interesting nor exciting. Once the initial story gets going, we have to suffer through two hours of film to get to a severely anti-climatic solution. This is not Lock, Stock or Snatch, but rather a pale reflection of what those films were.