RocknRolla: 2-Disc Digital Copy Special Edition
Directed By: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Mark Strong, Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, Toby Kebbell, Chris Bridges, Jeremy Piven, Karel Roden
|Studio: Warner Brothers|
Film Length: 114 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date: January 27, 2009
RocknRolla is a twisty comic and violent story of colorful characters at various levels of the London criminal food chain ripping each other off both purposely and unwittingly. As the film opens, Lenny Cole (Wilkinson) feels secure at the top of that food chain as he peddles his influence with key public officials to enrich or ruin those wanting to do business in the city. He uses this influence to double deal a group of smal time criminals casually known as "The Wild Bunch", landing them heavily in debt to him. When a Russian billionaire named Uri (Roden) enlists Lenny's aid to bribe away the red tape for a massive real estate development, Lenny finds himself in over his head. Uri's accountant, Stella (Newton) secretly tips off Wild Bunch crew One Two (Butler), Mumbles (Elba), and Handsome Bob (Hardy) to the location of the money transfer, and they steal it before it can be delivered to Lenny, not realizing (or caring) that they are stealing from the man they are desperate to pay back. Matters are further complicated when Uri's "lucky painting" bestowed on Lenny as a token of good will is stolen by Johnny Quid (Kebbell), Lenny's junkie rock star step-son who is holed up watching his record sales skyrocket after faking his own death. Lenny and his right hand man, Archie (Strong), put the squeeze on Johnny's management team (Piven, Bridges) to find the not dead rock star before Uri realizes the painting is missing. Little goes as planned and the chaos only increases when "automatic weapons with war criminals attached to them" and a criminal informer are introduced to the mix.
After a few diversions over the past eight years, Guy Ritchie returns to the London crime genre that made his reputation withRocknRolla. As with his previous films in the genre, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, RocknRolla has a twisty plot filled with picaresque British gangsters with varying but always incomplete knowledge of what is going on around them. While there is still plenty of fun to be had, the film feels a bit overwritten with far too many characters and uninspired plot contrivances for the amount of story it is intended to carry.
That being said, on a scene by scene basis, the movie can be an absolute blast, and on balance, there are more elements of the film that work than do not. A bald pated Tom Wilkinson chews any and all available scenery as the ruthless blowhard Lenny who is more fun to watch the more frustrated and angry he becomes. Mark Strong anchors the film with just the right combination of competence and deference as Lenny's point man, Archie. Almost any scene involving any combination of Newton, Butler, Elba, and Hardy is great fun, as they all have an amusing rapport that is equal parts writing and performance. Karel Rodin, provides a great antagonist, as the increasingly irked Russian billionaire with the dangerous combination of limited patience and limitless resources.
In terms of individual sequences, without getting too spoilery, there is a robbery-chase scene in the middle of the film that is worth the price of admission by itself. It borders on Coen Brothers-style lunacy, stopping short just enough to remain grounded in the world of the film. I especially enjoyed how the fact that people would actually begin to get tired during a foot chase, which is almost always ignored in conventional action movies, is exploited.
On the weak side of the ledger from both a plot and character standpoint is almost everything having to do with the purloined painting and Johnny Quid. The painting is a fairly weak MacGuffin, the importance of which and the passing off of which are handled a bit too casually. I am not asking for a Pulp Fiction style Christopher Walken gold watch monologue, but it does need to be "sold" a little harder in order for the ensuing drama to feel earned. The subplot also seems like a weak excuse to include the characters played by Jeremy Piven and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, who serve little purpose other than to show how Lenny can intimidate people, which is already established earlier with other characters. The Johnny Quid character figures importantly into the film's conclusion, but too many of his scenes prior to that feature tiresome junkie philosopher monologues that stop the film in its tracks. I do not fault Kebbell, who plays Quid about as well as anyone could hope. The problem seems to be a case of writer-director Ritchie falling too much in love with his own words to be editorially ruthless.
The VideoRocknRolla is presented on DVD with an outstanding 16:9 enhanced transfer at its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1. The filtered and manipulated stylized palette is reproduced accurately with only some minor edge ringing and light compression artifacts keeping it from perfection.
The AudioThe English Dolby Digital 5.1 track does proper home theater justice to the dynamic theatrical mix. Enough dynamic headroom is maintained in the levels to insure that the sudden bursts of gunfire, car crashes, and accompanying rock music have the proper impact. Surround dimensionality is lightly employed in the mix, usually for particular effects as opposed to using the surround channels for a constant dimensional ambience. Alternate Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs are presented in French and Spanish.
The ExtrasWhen the disc is first spun-up, the viewer is greeted with a series of skippable promotional spots. They are presented in 4:3 video, letterboxed when appropriate, with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound unless otherwise indicated below:
- Anti-Piracy PSA with scenes from "Casablanca" (1:00)
- Video game promo for Project Origin (2:11)
- DVD/BD Trailer for Pride and Glory(:32)
- DVD/BD Trailer for Body of Lies(:32)
- Theatrical Trailer for Watchmen(2:21)
- Warner Blu-Ray Promo (1:10 - Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound)
- Anti-tobacco PSA that says smoking is not as cool as advertising suggests(:34)
A Commentary by Director Guy Ritchie and actor Mark Strong spans the length of the film, and presents a casual, sporadically informative listen. Strong tends to err on the side of over praising things, and Ritchie has a bad habit of quoting his own dialog. Aside from that, they do manage to keep the conversation going with only one significant gap, which they are men enough to apologize for when it occurs. Some of the more entertaining comments include a revelation about why Tom Wilkinson is bald in the film, discussions of the much reported nasty infection Gerard Butler suffered during filming and how it was accommodated, Ritchie's introduction during production to a whole new type of magazine by Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, and Ritchie's brief but amusing discussion of what it is like to be a bad dancer whose spouse constantly travels surround by ten or more professionals. I found it interesting that the commentary was recorded post "global economic meltdown" which gives it a unique perspective versus the featurette which was made during the massive London real estate boom that inspired the movie's plot and setting.
Guy's Town (8:33) is a featurette presented in 4:3 letterboxed video focusing on the development boom in contemporary London that inspired the film and the locations chosen to reflect it. On camera interview participants include Guy Ritchie, Producer Steve Clark-Hall, Cinematographer David Higgs, Actor Mark Strong, Location Manager Clare Tovey, Actress Thandie Newton, Actor Tom Wilkinson, Actor Gerard Butler, and Production Designer Richard Bridgland.
Deleted Scene: Will You Put the Cigarette Out? (2:00) is presented in 16:9 enhanced video and consists of a discussion between One Two, Mumbles, and Handsome Bob while One Two tries to exercise on a treadmill. This was going to be used to establish that One-Two was a jogger in the chase scene later in the film, but it was rightly deemed expendable.
Finally, a "Digital Copy" of the film is available via a dedicated second disc. This copy is compatible with both Windows and Apple flavored operating systems and media players.
PackagingThe film is packaged in an Amaray-style case with a hinged tray allowing it to accommodate the digital copy disc as well as the one with the film and special features. The hardcase is in turn enclosed in a cardboard slipcover featuring the same artwork. The only insert is the sheet with the code to unlock the digital copy.
SummaryGuy Ritchie's "RocknRolla" is an entertaining if somewhat over cooked stew of modern British criminal activities with a novel perspective on the recent London real estate and construction booms. It is presented on DVD with an excellent audio-video presentation and a modest number of extras including a commentary, a brief featurette on the London setting of the film and locations that were used, a single interesting but rightly deleted scene, and a digital copy compatible with Windows and Apple hardware and software.