Taking a look through the pile of new home video releases, Guy Ritchie and Woody Allen both debut their latest oh-so-recognizable films, the gangster comedy RocknRolla, and the sexual drama Vicky Cristina Barcelona, respectively. Also out this week, the cop drama Pride and Glory, and the comedy The Rocker.
Between the highs (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, or Snatch) and lows (Swept Away, or Marrying Madonna) of his career, writer and director Guy Ritchie has shown a fixation for crime-riddled action films with a particular sense of humour. And for good reason. Look no further than the aforementioned highs and you’ll see Ritchie at his best, complete with big laughs and big action.
After the dismal failure of Swept Away, and then Revolver though, Ritchie also had a lot to prove this time out, so it’s no wonder that he went back to his roots, opting for a film that shares a lot in common with his original hits.
Gerard Butler stars as One Two, a freewheeling thief working for Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson), a criminal lightweight trying to grease the wheels for Uri (Karel Roden), the new Russian property hotshot in town. Both of the criminals find trouble though as Stella (Thandie Newton), Uri’s accountant, secretly helps One Two and his friends make off with the deal money, while someone else wanders off with Uri’s lucky painting; the combination of which leads to broken bones, bloody wounds, and a few bodies.
RocknRolla saunters, struts, bleeds, and wanders all over the place, making it one of Ritchie’s more amusing films, but certainly not his best.
Butler, Newton and Toby Kebbell as Johnny Quid, the RocknRolla himself, give the script a shake, and rattle out a few of the film’s best moments, but it’s still very slow to build, and not nearly entertaining enough. The film also never finds a way to make this big, impressive cast gel.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
The title is pretty much your introduction in Woody Allen’s latest sexual-driven drama about two women vacationing for the summer in Barcelona.
About to be married to an average guy, Vicky, played by Rebecca Hall, is the simple friend visiting Spain to take in the essence of the country. Christina, played by Scarlett Johansson, is the adventurous, carefree soul, looking for a good time. When they happen upon the passionate painter Juan Antonio Gonzalo, a never better Javier Bardem, their summer is turned upside down through a simple invitation to spend a weekend together seeing the sights.
For Christina, Juan Antonio is an irresistible force, and she finds herself drawn to him. Vicky on the other hand can’t stand him, or his sexual advances. It is only when Christina is ill, however, that Vicky realizes Juan Antonio does have the soul of an artist after all, and quickly falls for him.
Much like a classical drama, the three will pull on each other’s hearts for the rest of the summer. With the arrival of Vicky’s fiancé, Christina quickly builds a relationship with Juan Antonio, but she must also contend with his bitter, murderous ex, played by Penelope Cruz, who promptly moves in with them.
Allen’s script is trim, and clips along quickly over the events of the summer, but the film never feels too brisk. Instead, we pause on every key heartache and emotion, giving us front-row seats at the latest passionate moment. And while the film is ripe with the kind of drama you might expect in a soap opera, there is nothing cheap about the emotions in Allen’s latest drama.
Pride and Glory
Call me jaded, but there have been way too many cop dramas over the years, and I’m especially tired of the brothers-on-the-force storyline that seems unchanged over the last thirty, or even forty years. Looking at the critical consensus for Pride and Glory, I’d say I’m not alone in that observation either.
Pride and Glory has Edward Norton and Colin Farrell as brothers facing trouble within their own ranks, with one of them forced to investigate the family when a number of officers are killed on the job.
Todd Gilchrist of IGN Movies summed up my feelings on the film, calling it “a bleak, boring and hopelessly familiar corrupt cop story that simply does not work despite the determined, top-of-their-game efforts of [director Gavin] O’Connor and Norton, not to mention Colin Farrell, Jon Voight and others.”
The Office‘s Rainn Wilson stars as former rocker Robert “Fish” Fishman, the one-time drummer for eighties hair band Vesuvius who is called to the stage when his nephew asks him to help out his band. Of course, neither could know what they are getting themselves into and the result is an epic tour for the young band, with an all-too-crazy rocker trying to reclaim his youth.
“Audiences would be better served… playing Rock Band than wasting their time on something as leaden and unfunny as The Rocker,” Claudia Puig of USA Today wrote of the film. While Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly suggests an even bigger problem: “The only brazen thing about the film is how shamelessly it rips off School of Rock.”