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Review (8/10)
(By Liam Cullin)

I've always thought that being a movie director must be a tricky business. You make your name on the movies you create, and if they are successful, people want you to continue making similar movies. And if you try to branch off and do something your audience might not expect, you're not always going to get the results you want. And if you fail, the tricky part is trying to regain the confidence of the audience that discovered you in the first place. Guy Ritchie is a perfect example.

Ritchie made his name with movies like "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch". Both fantastic movies in the same mini-genre focusing heists and British gangsters. People loved the movies and associated Ritchie with both the films and their respective style. Next, Ritchie tried to stretch his directing legs and he made a little movie called "Swept Away" starring his future wife, Madonna. The movie tanked. Our own reviewer still stands behind his opinion that it was one of the worst movies he's ever seen. In an attempt to return to form, Ritchie countered with "Revolver". And even though the movie starred Jason Statham (who starred in both "Lock, Stock" and "Snatch") the movie was nowhere near the quality of Ritchie's earlier efforts. I still remember being totally confused and giving up on the movie. Rather than the disrespect of walking out of the theater, I made the conscious decision to take a little nap until the credits started to roll. I still don't know how the movie ended.

This year, Ritchie returns to theaters with "RocknRolla". And, while the movie doesn't star Jason Statham, that doesn't mean that Ritchie hasn't reclaimed a little of that former glory that made him a name in movieland. He has no need to worry about "RocknRolla" being labeled "A Guy Ritchie Film".

As with other Ritchie successes, "RocknRolla" features an international ensemble cast in multiple storyarcs that all overlap, culminating in a picture that will leave you wanting more. The movie stars Tom Wilkinson as Lenny, a big shot in the London criminal underground who makes a deal with a Russian billionaire named Uri (Karel Roden) involving $7 million and the Russian's favourite painting. Things go to hell when Lenny's junkie/rock star son Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell) steals the painting and the $7 million is stolen (twice) by a group called "The Wild Bunch" (Gerard Butler, Idris Elba and Tom Hardy). The movie also stars Mark Stong as Archy, Lenny's right hand man, Thandie Newton as Uri's accountant who orchestrates the robbery of the $7 million (twice) as well as Jeremy Piven and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges and Johnny Quid's managers.

I'll confess that I was a bit worried about seeing this movie. I loved "Lock, Stock" and "Snatch", I didn't make it through the first 5 minutes of "Swept Away" and, as mentioned, I napped for most of "Revolver". Does "RocknRolla" mark the return of Guy Ritchie? Well -- he's about 90% back. The movie is pretty damned entertaining. While it took a little bit to get into (the first 20 or so minutes dragged), the opening scenes set things up nicely and, once I got into the story, I was hooked. And although there was a moment in the middle involving Johnny Quid that brought the worst parts of "Revolver" to mind, overall the movie was well worth the time. The cast was excellent. Gerry Butler was a perfect substitute for Jason Statham -- although watching the movie I kept thinking Butler was playing the "Statham role" and, as much as I like Butler, he could've easily been replaced with Statham and I likely wouldn't have noticed. As for the rest of the movie, I laughed at times and I was on the edge of my seat at others. It's pretty much what you'd want and expect from Ritchie and co. They don't disappoint. Best of all, the movie left the door open for a sequel.

And that leaves me wondering where things go now for Guy Ritchie. Does he continue making these types of movies? And if so, how long before his audience gets bored? And that's why it's tricky to be a big shot movie director. Audiences expect you to make the same kinda movie over and over again. But sooner or later they want something more. What then? Well, as long as Ritchie doesn't sink low enough to seek financing from low-level British mobsters or Russian billionaires, I'm sure everything will work out just fine. And if all else fails, a "Real RocknRolla" sequel would be more than welcome.

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