Thanks a lot, Joel Silver!

1 November, 2008

There’s a brief sequence in Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten that compares live performances of Clash songs in pubs to those in sold-out arenas. The latter had no soul because these passionate songs about race and poverty had been crammed into a corporate blender and became pieces of punk self-parody. Now, I realize that Guy Ritchie isn’t half as effective an artist as the late great Joe Strummer, but the analogy still holds up when comparing his latest, RocknRolla, to his memorable debut, Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.

Does Ritchie really know anything about the London crime scene? Probably not. He certainly didn’t grow up amongst the characters he makes films about. But the charm of Lock Stock, even 10 years later, stems from the authenticity of the world it portrays, whether people like Barry The Baptist exist or not. The budget was barely a million pounds, there were no big names to carry the film besides Vinnie Jones — only a name in the UK — and a brief cameo by Sting, and for all its shameless rip-offs, Ritchie’s style actually felt original. You immediately got the sense that this new director was a bold and determined kid aiming to make the best possible piece of entertainment without relying on the Hollywood men in suits.

Now, Ritchie is relying on those men in suits, and in particular, the cantankerous Joel Silver. RocknRolla is unmistakably commercial. It regurgitates the tone and structure of his first two outings, and as we all know, Hollywood thrives on infinite mass production. Names like Gerard Butler and Jeremy Piven fool us into thinking that Ritchie still cares more about the actors than the star power, as these aren’t exactly Will Smith and Will Ferrell, but still; I miss Jason Flemyng and Steven Mackintosh, for example.

This isn’t a Guy Ritchie film. This is Guy Ritchie doing a Guy Ritchie film. To be fair, he’s not the only director of his generation to lapse into self-parody like this, but at least Wes Anderson isn’t whoring himself for the major studios. The soul is gone. The passion is gone. The excitement is gone. I was looking forward to his Sherlock Holmes film; not anymore, with or without Robert Downey Jr.

Thanks a lot, Joel Silver. Thanks for taking one of our most promising entertainers away. Thanks a fucking lot.

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