A week before the 9.5 U.K. release, In Contention‘s Guy Lodge has bitch-slapped Guy Ritchie‘s RocknRolla (Warner Bros., 10.8), calling it a “mess” that “falls apart” early on. This primes the pump, of course, for those attending next week’s Toronto Film Festival, where Ritchie’s film will be shown a few times.

“[During] the first few minutes of RocknRolla, hopes are high that Ritchie has rediscovered the fleet-footed timing and lightness of touch that made his trend-setting 1998 debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels such a delight, and its lesser follow-up, Snatch, such a guilty pleasure.
“The animated credit sequence, as you may have heard, is a thing of considerable beauty. More importantly, the opening scene, which employs swift, sexy cuts between multiple actors and locations to maintain a multi-voiced monologue on the fortunes of present-day London (Ritchie presumably wrote this before the recession), is something to behold.
“But then the pace settles, the actual narrative reveals itself — and the whole enterprise, shorn of these initial stylistic tics, steadily falls apart. Ritchie has dialed down his style of story construction since the incomprehensibly convoluted Revolver but he may have overcompensated — the size of the ensemble notwithstanding, there is really very little storytelling motor here.“The flimsiness of the entire construction would matter less if there were more wit and crackle in Ritchie’s script, or if the actors, at least, appeared to be having fun with it. Sadly, in the wake of his failures, Ritchie appears to have wholly lost his confidence and spontaneity as a writer; even the cleverer one-liners feel overworked and over-worded, tripping up the actors at every turn.
“More alarming still, Ritchie’s writing betrays precious little acquaintance with his characters or his story world. His weirdly dated heavies appear more informed by Get Carter than any facet of contemporary urban Britain.
“Twee soundbites like ‘You’ve got more feet on the street than coppers on the beat’ imply an artist hopelessly out of touch with his subject, particularly in a year that has given us the thrilling gangster patois and linguistic invention of Martin McDonagh‘s In Bruges.”