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Critic's Pick RocknRolla
Director: Guy Ritchie
Screenwriter: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Idris Elba, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges
Release Date: 2008-11-12
Rated: R
Genre: Film

Getting divorced sucks, and it can’t be easier when the whole world knows about it. For English director Guy Ritchie, then, this is a great time to release RocknRolla, a flashy crime film that proves he hasn’t lost his voice during his few years of wedlock and — love it or yawn — can still muster up the bad-boy brio that made him a sensation after his debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and breakthrough Snatch.

Happily, the new film isn’t quite a carbon copy of his first two films in the genre. It’s a touch less frantic and a tad less worried about being cute, though you’d never call it shy. (It says a lot about a movie’s exuberance level when Jeremy Piven, playing a music promoter here, is in danger of melting into the background.)

Ritchie still relies on wildly colorful but one-dimensional characters — the steely Russian gazillionaire, the mildly bumbling crooks, the tough-as-nails Brit gangster (a hugely entertaining Tom Wilkinson) still afflicted with class insecurities. As in Lock, Stock, a quirky treasure sets all the players in agitated, coincidence-prone motion: the Russian’s “lucky painting,” a piece of artwork he loans the Brit kingpin as a gesture of goodwill, which is then stolen by a rock-star junkie, then by even junkier junkies, and so on.

Mysterious artwork aside, the plot is a busy patchwork of graft, double-crossing, and plain old robbery played against an awfully fun musical backdrop. If it’s less than wholly satisfying, it does rise above the genre pack with sequences like an outrageous chase scene that Just. Won’t. Stop. And then keeps going.

Moviegoers may look skeptically at closing titles that promise a sequel, but then again, Ritchie may need another return to familiar turf down the road: His next project, believe it or not, is a Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downey Jr.

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