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So, there's this painting.
We don't actually see the painting (just the back of the frame), but it's gotta be something, because everyone who does look at it just loves the thing. The guy who owns it—a Russian mobster/real estate developer named Uri—calls it his lucky painting. And he brought it with him to London as a kind of bulky, expensive rabbit's foot, to help a critical business deal along.
Russian mobsters/real estate developers are eccentric like that.
Uri's working a deal with Lenny Cole, a shades-wearing mogul who has bribed, cheated and killed his way to a position of power in London's shady real estate underworld. He's no mobster, though, he'll be quick to tell you. Never mind that he has a slew of thugs on his payroll, because his head enforcer, Archy, insists that they all keep receipts of the bribes they pay. Doesn't a lengthy paper trail mean everything's legit?
The answer to that is a big fat no, of course. Just ask all the fellows Lenny has sent to sleep with the crayfishes at the bottom of the River Thames.
Anyway, Lenny likes the painting and Uri loans it to him. "Take it for a while," Uri says. "Maybe it'll give you luck."
Ah, the irony. For on the first night the painting hangs in Lenny's house, Johnny Quid—Lenny's estranged, drugged out, rock star son who's supposed to be dead—steals it.
Meanwhile, Uri's promised to pay Lenny 7 million euros to grease a few real estate wheels. But that's stolen, too. The crooks who snag it—charismatic ne'er-do-wells who go by the names One Two and Mumbles—seem to also owe Lenny chunks of change. Turns out, they work with Uri's shapely London accountant Stella, who in turn is married to an important lawyer, who in turn has a gay crush on a third thug named Handsome Bob, who—
But let's get back to the point. Uri feels in his heart of hearts that these robberies are unlucky. And when Uri feels unlucky, people die.
We hear that Handsome Bob once took care of One Two's mother when One Two was sent to the slammer for a few years. And several people apparently have an appreciation for good art.
When One Two and Stella hook up, audiences see several rapid-fire shots of their faces in various states of ecstasy (accompanied by the sounds of short groans, gasps and the zipping of pants). Uri also has his eyes on Stella, who wiggles and snakes her sultry way through a handful of scenes while wearing tight-fitting garb.
Handsome Bob, on the other hand, is not ogling Stella. Right before he's due to head to prison for five years, he convinces One Two to have pity on him and share a slow-dance with him. One Two at first thinks sex is the goal, and he slugs Bob in the face. He assure Bob that his cooperation isn't needed since the prison experience is sure to include homosexual activity. "You'll probably love it!" One Two says.
The two do end up dancing together in a gay bar. And the event turns into a low-wattage running gag. Bob later agrees to hook up with a male lawyer in exchange for information on a snitch.
One Two lowers his pants in jest to lure Mumbles to a back room, and we see the crook's buttocks. Two Russian thugs tie up a character and then strip down to their underwear ... before they're interrupted. Johnny Quid asks a friend whether he was abused as a kid. A curvaceous tennis player (on Lenny's payroll) apparently offers her "services" to a London official as a bribe. We hear about how One Two hired expensive escorts (twins) for a friend.
Nearly everyone either beats or kills someone else. Lenny wreaks the most havoc. He orders his henchmen to tie his enemies to chairs, attach the chairs to chains and then dunk them in the Thames to A) loosen their tongues, B) kill them or, if all goes well, C) both. One such victim is pulled up momentarily, crayfish clinging to his body. He then goes down a second time, never to come back up. Lenny orders hits, demands his henchmen bring back "bodies," grabs a government official by the crotch and shoots his own son in the gut.
We see Lenny in flashback mode slap Johnny across the face for playing music too loud. And when Johnny turns the music back up, we see Dad walk back in, taking off his belt. The film suggests that Johnny is haunted by both his upbringing and the drugs he constantly takes. He and a friend wait in line to get into a club and, when they're refused entry (they have no money) Johnny stabs the bouncer in the neck with a pencil and beats him—perhaps to death—with his fists, feet and a garbage can lid. He and some associates later gun down a handful of Lenny's thugs.
One Two and his gang pursue and are pursued by knife-wielding Russian gangsters, leading to gunfire, fistfights and several vicious blows involving baseball bats and a large pipe. One guy is beaten severely with a golf club—an attack that breaks one of his legs in four places.
Several people are involved in a jarring auto accident. And a car crashes into a sporting goods store.
Crude or Profane Language
At least 100 f-words make it seem almost silly to report that there are a half-dozen s-words and a handful of milder profanities. ("B--tard" is a favorite.) God's name is misused a few times. Obscene hand gestures evoke oral sex.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Johnny is so drugged up most of the time that he apparently develops an alter ego named "The Pipe." We see him light his pipe—a glassy bong that looks like it belongs in a mad scientist's lab—as the film opens. Later we see him in the throes of a high; he shakes and sways as vomit leaks from his mouth. We also meet Johnny's one-time dealer—a guy who goes to a swank London party and, it's suggested, sells loads of drugs to a rich, unfamiliar clientele.
(Johnny's drug use is hardly glamorized. The film has little compassion for him in the condition he's in, or that of the other junkies who cross the screen. When we learn Johnny has kicked his habit, the information is proffered as a good thing.)
Johnny continues to smokes like a chimney, as do most of the folks who surround him. And he muses over the nature of cigarette packages—how one side shows this happy, friendly, comforting personality, and on the other, there's a big warning that says cigarettes will surely kill you.
Characters spend a lot of time drinking, as well, and Lenny is twice shown a little tipsy.
Other Negative Elements
Every major character in RocknRolla is, at best, a crook, and several are flat-out killers. As such, the film doesn't really have good guys—the most sympathetic folks here are simply bad guys with a sense of humor. RocknRolla's top villain is not so much reviled for all the stealing, killing and nastiness he spreads, but rather for snitching on his fellow bad guys.
Lenny regularly rails against the "evils" of immigrants.
Some movies are icky but deep. Some movies are clean but vacuous. And some movies, like this one, come without a shred of discernable merit—by way of content or style. Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla doesn't so much tell a story as it just sits around and festers, like mold at the bottom of your shower pan.
In a way, then, it's appropriate that the plot revolves around a painting we never get to see. Sure, the frame may be provocative. But the only thing it surrounds is a pocket of dark, dank air.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Gerard Butler as One Two; Tom Wilkinson as Lenny Cole; Toby Kebbell as Johnny Quid; Idris Elba as Mumbles; Tom Hardy as Handsome Bob; Mark Strong as Archy; Thandie Newton as Stella
Guy Ritchie ( )