RocknRolla by Guy Ritchie Starring Gerard Butler

Guy Ritchie's Motivation

British writer-ddirector Guy Ritchie, who previously explored the rougher edges of London in his debut hit, “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” and later in his film “Snatch,” was fascinated by the infusion of big foreign money, mostly from Eastern Bloc countries, pushing its way into London's old school rackets. “I wanted to take a humorous look at the consequences of the new school pushing in on the territory of the old school,” says Ritchie, who is also a producer on “RocknRolla.”

Stepping on Banana Skins

“This film is about trying to get into the property business, which so many people have tried to do, particularly in the last couple of years, because the profits are so vast. Everyone tries to get involved, and of course there are those that end up stepping onto banana skins.”

With new buildings going up almost daily, the city has become an endless construction site and London's skyline has been altered beyond recognition. “If you go to the top of any tall building, all you can see are cranes,” Ritchie describes. “It looks as though the cranes are breeding. And property prices continue to rocket. It goes without saying that because there's so much money involved, there are a lot of people taking advantage of the situation.”

Everyone wants in on the action–from the crime kingpin whose days are numbered, to the ambitious Eastern European whose criminal activities are hidden behind a veneer of respectability, to the accountants and bureaucrats counting the money, and, finally, to the small-time cons looking for a shortcut up the ladder of success. “What I've tried to do is amalgamate all these disparate journeys and personalities, which connect to one big whole,” Ritchie explains. “Inevitably there are connections, but they go through circuitous pathways from the upper tier to the lower and back again. We wanted to represent different facets of our society who are embroiled in this large-scale scam.”

Humor and Action

Producer Joel Silver was immediately drawn to the intertwining elements of humor and action in Ritchie's edgy tale. “We had always talked about working together on a movie, and within 24 hours of reading it, I knew I wanted to make 'Rocknrolla,'” Silver recalls. “Guy's vision is unique and encompasses this dynamic world inhabited by gangsters, rock stars, crooked politicians, Russian war criminals, and everyone in-between.”

Producer Susan Downey adds, “'RocknRolla' has everything people love about Guy's movies–the eclectic mix of characters, the interweaving storylines that dovetail in ways you don't see coming, the fantastic ensemble cast, the energy, the distinct visual style… But it also has an unexpected emotional layer and depth that I think sets this film apart.”

Ritchie, says Silver, has his finger on the pulse of the London criminal underworld where his stories live. “This film offers an affectionate nod to both the old-school gangster, Lenny Cole, and to the up-and-coming wise guys in the Wild Bunch. But what they're encountering with these Eastern businessmen is entirely new. They don't respect the old school, and they've got the money and the muscle to change the way things are done in London. So, the old school will have to adapt to survive. It makes for a very dynamic story and a lot of wild card elements that just send the action into a whole new realm.”

Th Wild Bunch

Tired of barely getting by on small-time cons, the Wild Bunch is always looking for the big score.

Gerard Butler

Gerard Butler stars as their de facto leader, a street-smart hustler called One Two, who is looking to play both sides of the fence. Butler had wanted to work with Ritchie since seeing “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” “When I opened the script for 'RocknRolla,' it was everything I could have dreamed of,” says the actor. “The film is thought-provoking, but it has also got humor, violence and silliness.”

Ritchie says that the actor possessed all the qualities he envisioned when he created the role of One Two. “Gerry is that intangible mix of charm and danger, of sincerity and guile.” Once on the set, the director praised the actor's instincts, noting, “Gerry immediately understood what we were doing, which made my work much easier,” he says. “He basically nailed everything on one take.”

Butler, in turn, attributes his understanding to the director. “Guy knew exactly what he wanted and made it easy for us as actors to follow his train of thought. He's an amazing director.”

One Two and his crew–including Mumbles, played by Idris Elba, and Handsome Bob, played by Tom Hardy–want to break into where the real money is: real estate. “They're all best mates,” Butler says. “They've hung about together for years, been through thick and thin together. Meanwhile, they're trying to have a bit of a life while they're doing that. So, that presents its own challenges, including friends that turn out to be not quite as you expected.”

Elba describes the Wild Bunch as “entrepreneurs.” “They're opportunists that run around London trying to snatch a piece of the old pie,” he says. “Mumbles and One Two complement each other because they are both opportunists. Wherever there is an opportunity to cash in, they snatch it up. In this film, they have a sort of low-life gentlemen's club, a spieler where they all hang out. That's where they sit down, have a laugh and decide, 'What shall we do that's dodgy today, boys' It's quite a hoot. Guy's got a very interesting sense of humor.”

But their first attempt at property speculation ends with them losing it all and owing a large sum of money to Lenny Cole, a crooked London businessman who controls both the money and the local real estate market. Lenny, played by Tom Wilkinson, backs the Wild Bunch in a property deal…but only long enough to steal it back from them. “They are just trying to make their way in this world,” says Butler. “They're trying to break into the property market but haven't done very well. They get screwed on the biggest deal they ever undertake and think they just got unlucky. And true to the perverse Guy Ritchie humor, that debt comes back to haunt those that screwed them over.”

Only 24 Hours

What's worse: Handsome Bob has only 24 hours before beginning a five-year stint in the slammer on an unrelated charge. His character harbors a particular secret that comes out as he looks down the barrel of a long sentence. Like the other characters in the film, Tom Hardy says his character is “larger than life.” He continues, “These characters are based in reality, but it's a sort of heightened reality. Gangsters engage in criminal acts and violence, but these guys are always laughing and goofing off. They have many sides, though, so it's not such a good idea to underestimate them.”