Dir Guy Ritchie UK (PG15)
Wrong-footed by the new credit crunch zeitgeist, but with recovered fluency after the hiccups of Revolver and Swept Away, director Guy Ritchie’s latest returns to the caper comedy antics of unreconstructed London criminals familiar from his earlier Lock, Stock… and Snatch.
The old smoke is changing: Tom Wilkinson’s ‘headmaster of the old-school’ villain seems a little tired, no match for the chutzpah of Gerard Butler’s ‘One Two’, one of the pair of the smaller-timers he employs to obtain a painting belonging to Karl Roden’s bent football-loving Russian billionaire, with whom the old gangster is co-operating on a real-estate scam. Matters are further complicated – that’s an understatement – by a plethora of criss-crossing strands involving lethally glamorous lawyer Thandie Newton, ghostly coke-head Toby Kebbell and trans-Atlantic music co-producers Ludacris and Jeremy Piven.
Despite its putatively ‘strong’ women characters, RocknRolla is still basically ‘geezer cinema’, concocted to Ritchie’s habitual formula: gangster-land parody packed out with well-mounted action sequences, slick visuals (here courtesy of David Higgs), flashcard editing, eclectic scoring and some funny, sometimes Pinter-esque, hardman patter. Forgetting its Long Good Friday pretensions and allowing for its air of laddish self-congratulation and its sad whiff of homophobia – admittedly, quite a big ask – Ritchie’s film is arguably his most entertaining to date. With its cheeky wit, non-PC provocations, cock-eyed class-consciousness and cheerful irreverence it could be the closest thing to Ealing comedy we’re offered these days.
Dhs85 at Virgin Megastore
Quantum Of Solace
Dir Marc Forster UK, US (PG13)
If you needed further evidence that the James Bond franchise has been revitalised and, at last, made relevant; that Daniel Craig is a fantastic choice to play Bond; that British cinema can produce action blockbusters to rival Hollywood’s typically bigger, faster, louder beasts… well, then Quantum Of Solace is it.
Plot has never been this franchise’s strongest point, but now even that has changed. Here, we have a believable villain in Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a slimy guy posing as an environmentalist who plans to take control of Bolivia’s water supply. Instead of the archetypal examples of good and bad – the villain recognised by his physical deformity, MI6 are all neat, gentlemanly good guys – we get the complications of the real world: MI6 has politics and, most importantly, oil, to consider, and baddies aren’t so easily spotted (as M discovers in the opening scenes). Of course, as with Casino Royale, the biggest difference is in its sheer brutality.
Gone are the polished, comedic action sequences of a dapper Bond, not a hair out of place, driving around in a gondola-turned-land-scooter (see Moonraker). When Craig lashes out, you feel the crunch of bones. He spends much of the film dirty, battered and bruised… and he only sleeps with one woman! Throughout the whole film! This is a Bond that Britain can be proud of.