Don't waste your time trying to figure out who all the good and bad guys are in the Guy Ritchie film RocknRolla - there are no good guys that really matter in the film. All of the principal characters can only be measured in their degree of darkness, treachery and propensity for violence and mayhem.
That in and of itself doesn'make RocknRolla a bad film, but it is not a good film. It kind of falls somewhere in the middle.
The London-based plot is about the pursuit of millions by white-collar gangsters and criminals in the name of colossal construction projects, the theft of a mysterious painting by bad guys from a bad guy, and all the attendant retribution and payback.
One of the movie's primary characters is a white-collar crime lord named Lenny Cole - played by the versatile Academy Award nominee Tom Wilkinson - who prides himself on "owning the city." The other character to dominate the center cinema stage is a middle level thug named One Two (played by Gerald Butler).
The challenge in the first 30 minutes of the film for many may be in understanding who exactly the underworld thugs are and what their relationships are to one another. The British-accented dialogue that is not always easy to understand also further complicates that comprehension.
And then there is the cinematic fat that viewers will have to muddle through to get to the meat of the matter - a stolen painting that was loaned to Lenny from a rich developer and passes through a number of crooked hands - as well as a mysterious informer that has vexed this particular crime underworld, which resulted in some past jail time for some.
It is the type of screenplay that would have benefited from more creative scene editing time. Ritchie - who has made his mark as the writer/director of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch - obviously had not the patience. What could have been a great movie is overloaded with too much that takes away from the central conflicts, such as the gangster who tries to act out his homosexual issues on heterosexual fellow thug One Two, adding an unnecessary 10 minutes to the movie.
Fortunately the movie is partially saved by stellar acting by Wilkinson, as well as Thandie Newton - who plays a sexy, seductively aloof enigma of an accountant who gets her thrills by enlisting One Two and his pals to do her double-crossed bidding. Also Roby Kebbell turns a strong performance as Johnny Quid, Lenny's poisonous stepson who is also a rock star that has staged his own disappearance.
RocknRolla has just enough quality moments to make the viewers feel like they didn't waste their time or money. But it is disappointing in that it could have been much better. Maybe the never-boring Ritchie had to rush it to get to his next project - the much-anticipated Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr.
The 114-minute film is rated R for language, violence and sexual reference.