| The Red Right Hand
Those who know me are well aware that my luck, at the best of times, is relatively poor. Bad things simply worship my existence and generally populate my everyday life as much as they can. However, the universe does balance itself out every now-and-then and places a beautiful golden goose in front of me. The instance I'm referring to at present is a pay-off for years of promoting Revolver. I really enjoyed Guy Ritchie's last film, I honestly did. I enjoyed it so much that I went online with my review, to counter the hailstorm of negative ones. Furthermore, I offered anyone who asked a full explanation of the plot as I saw it. To this day, I still get plenty of emails about this bold, cryptic piece which should stand as a testimonial to how many people still enjoy it. It would appear my explanation, positive review and general promotion caught the attention of a view executives and I was invited to a private screening. On arrival, I was greeted by the film's narrator (and an actor who I respect very much), Mr. Mark Strong. Mark Strong is a cool guy whose career I know fairly well and I've also highlighted his appearances in many reviews. The fact that he was the one promoting the film, however, was pure coincidence. So, there's Mark and myself, sitting in Screen 11 of the Odeon waiting for the film to start. We had a bit of a chinwag, he asked me what I was drinking, then asked me if I got it for free. A little shocked I said, "No." His response was to simply state 'oh' and sip at his complimentary beverage. Then we talked about London and had a very brief conversation in German (which was surprising and rather interesting) before the film started. Afterward I managed to capture a few badly recorded words in one of the most botched, crappy quality, stupid interviews I have ever had the privilege of messing up - this can be heard on my podcast (Episode III)
But onto the film! So, the question on everybody's lips will no doubt be, 'has Guy Ritchie returned to form?' For all intensive purposes, he never really fell-off his form, just went in a slightly different direction within the genre. If your question, however, is 'is it as good as Lock Stock or Snatch?' then the answer is no. With that out of the way, allow me to explain the film from a neutral stand point. As with any typical Ritchie flick, this film starts off quickly and if you don't pay attention, you won't be able to follow later on. The plot itself, again follows Ritchie's tried-and-true formula of weaving multiple characters and events together, all of which culminate and meet for the denouement. Essentially, an aging gangster by the name of Lenny [Wilkinson] runs the shady elements of London. With property prices going up, the city is rife with foreign buyers, purchasing all the land they can. Lenny, wanting to bleed these investors for all they have, deals with Russian entrepreneur, Uri [Karl Roden] and as an act of friendship, accepts Uri's lucky painting while their initial dealings go through. In addition to this we have the self proclaimed Wild Bunch (comprised of One, Two [Butler], Mumbles [Idris Elba] and Handsome Bob [Tom Hardy]) who have found themselves in Lenny's pocket for 2 million (and whereas that may not sound like a great deal to Americans, just remember this is Europe and our money goes a long way and is still worth something). Desperate to come up with the cash, they find themselves working for a strange accountant, Stella [Newton], who likes a taste of the underworld from time-to-time and hires them to rob her Russian boss, Uri. The final element is the person responsible for stealing the painting, a drug-addled rock star genius by the name of Johnny Quid [Toby Kebbell], who everyone believes to be dead. To be honest, the whole thing is a little complicated and too much to explain in one review. You should initially have the idea, though.
Both plot and script have unfortunate flaws that will no doubt affect the film. The informant thing was a little obvious but enjoyable to watch unfold so that's not worth over-scrutinising. The character moulds, on the other hand, were a little formulaic and stuck too closely to the usual pattern; this isn't to say they weren't done well, you just know where they're going to go with it. I also had a few pacing issues; there's a lot to keep up with and a few elements that appeared inconsequential or picayune could have easily been cut. Finally, there's the gay thing. For some baffling reason, Ritchie wrote in a side plot outing Handsome Bob. The setting is credible: criminal faces five years in prison and desperately fears never seeing his beloved One, Two again, so decides to reveal his true feelings. Butler's initial reaction is, at least, also credible, slamming on the brakes in the middle of the road, getting out of the car and shouting at him. From there on it gets a little strange and all these hardened criminals are apparently well-aware Bob is gay and are completely at ease with it. Now, most shady London types that I know (knew, honest Mum, I don't talk to them anymore, I'm not involved in anything; promise) are the most homophobic people on the planet but I suppose itís a nice change of pace to work something of this nature into a film of this sort without simply gay-bashing or taking the piss.
On the plus side, Ritchie has managed to incorporate a variety of editorial and cinematographic elements seen in Revolver, which make the film a treat for the eyes. The humour is still present in healthy doses with the action, violence and swearing, so the whole thing feels like a Guy Ritchie release. The cast is comprised of a wealth of acting talent, all of whom offer a great deal and deliver exceptionally. At the end of the day, this film is probably going to appease and coax back a whole host of Ritchie fans but certainly won't be for everyone and worst of all (for Guy, at least) Layer Cake is still a stronger movie.
5th September 2008
The Scene To Look Out For:
**Sort of spoiler**
In all honesty, I was very uncomfortable throughout the entire flick. Seriously, try to imagine the setting; you're in a 200+ seat screen, just you and this actor, sitting there watching a film he is starring in. Now, I've attended premieres and met famous people so I don't go wobbly at the knees but it's still a little odd and it was at that moment, as paranoia crept in, that I realised British cinema seat are positioned too close to one another. It was also at that moment that I completely forgot about all that because I was wholly sucked into the plot. A young Johnny Quid is dancing in a mirror, singing away to himself when his stepfather, Lenny, comes in and berates him for being 'a poof' and driving his mother to her death. The reflective scene is simple enough but rather well done, opening up a whole new dimension for the rock star character.
The character Johnny Quid has been perfectly cast with the almost unknown Toby Kebbell. I first saw Kebbell in Dead Man's Shoes, then recognised him in both Control and Alexander but with this character he is given the opportunity to show off what he has and really shine. Blessed with captivating soliloquies and a deep character arc, Kebbell's Johnny Quid is more like a wizened sage than a drug addict. As the film comes to a close we are informed that 'Archie, Johnny and the Wild Bunch will return in The Real RocknRolla.' If this is true, I have high hopes for what we can expect from this young talent.
"If I could be half the human being Bob is at the cost of being a poof, I'd have to think about it. Not for very long but I'd have to pause"
In A Few Words:
"It's not exactly a triumphant return but certainly a step in the right direction"