“RockNRolla” – Susan Granger reviews

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Writer/director Guy Ritchie (” Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” “Snatch”) specializes in exaggerated “Pulp Fiction”-like crime capers set in contemporary London.

This time, a Russian billionaire, Uri Obomavich (Karel Roden), who does business out of a posh box in recently renovated Wembley Arena, concocts a crooked land deal attracting many denizens of London’s criminal underworld, particularly a manipulative, old-time crime boss Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) but also ambitious small-time crooks like Mumbles (Idris Elba), Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy) and brash One Two (Gerard Butler), whose love interest is a sexy, duplicitous accountant (Thandie Newton) strutting in red-soled Christian Louboutin stilettos. There’s a stolen “lucky” painting and cash is passed in a Louis Vuitton Murakami bag. But the wild card is Lenny’s estranged stepson, Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell), a junkie punk rock star who was presumed dead but is very much alive.

Narrated like a graphic comic, this is a very British film — which, to Americans, means that many mobsters spurt occasionally undecipherable Cockney (subtitles would have been helpful) and the often idiotic street thugs indulge in over-the-top brutal, even surreal villainy. As always, Ritchie’s sharply into style over substance, working with cinematographer David Higgs and editor James Herbert to present his contrivances with unusual visuality, if not economy. That often happens when the director is also the writer — and there’s no one to tell him he’s spinning too many labyrinthine plotlines.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “RockNRolla” is a darkly frenetic, smug 7. After the debacle of “Swept Away” (with his now-estranged wife Madonna) and the pretentious self-indulgence of “Revolver,” it’s encouraging to see Guy Ritchie back on track again as he begins work on a new interpretation of “Sherlock Holmes” along with a remake of “The Dirty Dozen.”

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.