The old smoke is changing: Tom Wilkinson’s ‘headmaster of the old-school’ villain seems a little tired, no match for the chutzpah of Gerard Butler’s drole ‘One Two’, one of the pair of the smaller-timers he employs to obtain a painting belonging to Karl Roden’s bent football-loving Russian billionaire, with whom the old gangster is co-operating on a real-estate scam. Matters are further complicated – that’s an understatement – by a plethora of criss-crossing strands involving lethally glamorous lawyer Thandie Newton, ghostly coke-head Toby Kebbell and trans-Atlantic music co-producers Ludacris and Jeremy Piven.
Despite its putatively ‘strong’ women characters, ‘RocknRolla’ is still basically ‘geezer cinema’, concocted to Ritchie’s habitual formula: gangster-land parody packed out with well-mounted action sequences, slick visuals (here courtesy of David Higgs), flashcard editing, eclectic scoring and some funny, sometimes Pinter-esque, hardman patter. Forgetting its ‘Long Good Friday’ pretensions and allowing for its air of laddish self-congratulation and its sad whiff of homophobia – admittedly, quite a big ask – Ritchie’s film is arguably his most entertaining to date. With its cheeky wit, non-PC provocations, cock-eyed class-consciousness and cheerful irreverence it could be the closest thing to Ealing comedy we’re offered these days.