RocknRolla [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Josh Cleary & Noor Razzak (30th March 2009).
The Film

So, Guy Ritchie. Touchy subject. Started with a hiss and roar. And what a spectacular hiss. What an incredibly resonant roar. "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (1998) followed by "Snatch" (2000). Career making films. Groundbreaking even. Created a whole new genre. After these triumphs his career hit a stall. I say stall. It went into a tail spin of truly Hindenburg-esque proportions. Thanks a bundle Madonna. But enough said about that particular harridan. "RocknRolla" is very firmly in the genre that Guy Ritchie created. "Guns n Geezers". "Pubs n Thugs". Nobody did it better. Sharp writing, flashy editing and relentless pacing. This coupled with an ear for a fantastic soundtrack made for enjoyable escapism.

But "RocknRolla" dips a little deeper. It deals with some much darker subject material. It covers the nature of drug addiction, with Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell) exorcising his familial demons with a revolver lighter and a giant bong. There's no looking away from the skinny, horrifying car crash victim that he is. We touch on the corruption in the halls of office. The Councilor and the Lawyer both iniquitous low-lives in their own special way. We gain a glimpse of the criminal life, both from a London perspective with the Wild Bunch, and from the outsiders perspective with the chillingly matter of fact Russian killers and property investors. Above all of this Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) sits in the middle of the web like an obscene spider insulated against the misery that he spreads around like manure on a prize rose garden. At his right hand sits Archy (Mark Strong) who, for my money, is the finest single character Guy Ritchie has ever penned.

The actors for the most part seem to be having a blast. Tom Wilkinson is very obviously having the time of his life hamming it up as Lenny Cole. But special mention must be made ofMark Strong. His turn on the boards as Archy is truly incredible. He holds the attention of the audience with the same magnetic presence as (dare I say it?) Anthony Hopkins did in "The Silence of The Lambs" (1991). He has that same intensity and animalistic quality and he owns the screen every second he is on it.

So we have a story about a painting and its effects on the London crime world. A bunch of crazy Russian mobsters with a shady accountant. A drug addled rockstar trying desperately to disappear. And the whole thing is played out by some actors who are obviously having fun. There's not much that can go wrong here.

The cinematography in "RocknRolla" is on the whole pleasing to look at. It's not difficult to watch. The editing lacks some of the sped and freneticism of his early projects. But given the darker subject material and generally more grown up approach this can be understood. On the whole this feels like it takes longer than "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch" but it's not a bad thing. I've grown up some since those movies come out. I expect a little more from movies now. It's good to see Ritchie exploring the genre he has created. I look forward to his next effort.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.40:1 this image is delivered onto Blu-ray in 1080p 2/fps and has been mastered using VC-1 compression. The film was originally shot on HD digital cameras (the Arriflex D-20) and thus this transfer was created from the original source file. The result is simply splendid, there's not much to go wrong when you have the original HD master to use. The image is crisp and sharp, detail is impressive right down to the minuscule costume accessory and skin tones and textures also look great. Black levels are deep and bold and the overall image displays excellent depth. The colours are appropriately muted, leaning towards the sepia tones, these are represented faithfully on this transfer. The film's look is very 'treated' and it holds up on this presentation. I spotted no evidence of compression related problems, there was no dirt, specks or edge-enhancement either. Overall Warner Brothers did a fine job transferring this film onto Blu-ray.

Audio

There are no less than six audio tracks on this disc, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mixed at 48kHz/24-bit, as well as standard Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish and finally there is an English Audio Descriptive track in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. For the purposes of this film I chose to view it with its TrueHD track. Like most Ritchie films there's plenty of dialogue to go around and it's clearly presented in without distortion, there are plenty of sound effects that mark quick edits and whip-pans, as well as some action scenes which use the surrounds well, ambient noise is effective as well in immersing the viewer as does the music which blasts through the surround channels. It's a solid and effective track that presents the film quite well.
Optional subtitles are included in Dutch, English for the hearing impaired, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Extras

Warner Brothers have included a few extras such as an audio commentary, two featurettes, a single deleted scene, bonus trailers and a digital copy of the film. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is a feature-length scene-specific audio commentary by the film's writer/director Guy Ritchie and actor Mark Strong. I was looking forward to sitting down and listening to this track hoping it would be exciting and engaging... but it was slow, tedious and kind of boring. The two participants comment on what's happening onscreen far too much and only occasionally drop in tidbits about the filming and scenes. The dry track tiptoes along with a few quiet bits spattered about. They do provide some fascinating information for fans but these are few and far between as I found myself watching this with my finger on the fast-forward button and scanning the film's track from scene to scene. If you have the constitution to sit through two soft spoken Brits for 115 minutes then more power to you.

Up next is the "Blokes, Birds and Bankhanders: Inside RocknRolla" featurette which runs for 15 minutes 3 seconds. This clip is a basic EPK clip that covers the basics about the film's production from its story development to shooting and features the usual interviews with cast talking about their characters and explain what a "RocknRolla" is, behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the film. While it's a suitable making-of I wish there was a more substantial clip that goes into more detail about the stages of production rather than this fluff.

"Guy's Town: The Director Reflects on His Fascination with Ever-Evolving London" is the next featurette which runs for 8 minutes 32 seconds. In this clip, the writer/director and various commentators talks about the city's landscape and what makes it such an interesting place to shoot, the clip covers the changes the city has undergone in the last ten years, the various dodgy activities and exploring the numerous locations around the city.

There is a single deleted scene entitled "Will You Put The Cigarette Out?" and runs for 2 minutes, in this scene One Two (Gerard Butler) is working out on a treadmill while Mumbles (Idris Elba) talks to him about the job.

The disc also features some start-up bonus trailers for:

- "Body of Lies" which runs for 31 seconds.
- "Appaloosa" which runs for 2 minutes 15 seconds.

You can also access a digital copy of the film for portable devices through an online registration process.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: C Overall: A-

 


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