Guy Ritchie (centre) knew exactly what he wanted in RocknRolla.
ROCKNROLLA written and directed by Guy Ritchie, with Gerard Butler, Thandie Newton, Tom Wilkinson and Jeremy Piven. A Warner Brothers release. 114 minutes. Now playing. For venues and times, see Movies.
Guy Ritchie's got some pair, and I'm not talking about the cojones it takes to play Mr. Madonna to a world-class ball breaker.
No, I'm referring to the Brit director's closing-credits promise of a follow-up to his gangster movie RocknRolla.
"Yes, I've written a sequel," he says during a Toronto Film Festival press conference, as simply as if he'd said he ate bangers and mash for breakfast.
That's pretty ballsy. It's not like announcing Iron Man 2 - which only received its green light after raking in $400 million. Even Tarantino, to whom Ritchie has often been compared, didn't attempt a sequel to Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction after those films earned millions, redefined indie cinema and inspired an entire subgenre of pop-culture-savvy and darkly comic crime movies like Ritchie's RocknRolla, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.
Lock, Stock made just $4 million when it was released a decade ago; Snatch made $30 million. Not exactly a confidence-inspiring Spielbergian box office track record. Let's not even talk about how Swept Away, the romantic dramedy remake starring Ritchie's missus, tanked, or how Revolver, his supposed return to the crime genre (but with a New Agey existential twist), barely made enough to buy a new Lexus.
That doesn't stop big-name talent from being drawn to working with Ritchie, especially when it's a London gangster story about two-bit hoods with names like One Two and Mumbles and a cracked-out Pete Doherty-ish rock-and-roller who goes missing with the prized painting of a Russian mobster.
"I've never been around a director who knows what he wants more," says Jeremy Piven, who plays the title character's manager. "He'd act it out in commedia dell'arte style. He knows how he wants things to look, feel - he really knows what he wants."
RocknRolla is set in what Ritchie calls the "new Wild West" of London, where crime has taken hold thanks to the boom in the real estate market.
"Where there's money involved, there's crime involved," he says. "The human condition is uniform."
Ritchie isn't waiting around to see if RocknRolla makes enough bank to warrant a sequel (it only cost $15 million, so chances are good it'll turn a profit - eventually). He's already deep into production on an action-oriented version of Sherlock Holmes, with Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., as the master detective and Jude Law as sidekick Watson.
"It sort of debunks the Basil Rathbone image of Holmes," says Ritchie.
And while the combination of Ritchie, Downey, Law and Victorian-era bang-bang screams boffo box office, Ritchie isn't putting the cart before the horse, sequel-wise.
"I haven't really thought about the franchise factor, because I've been concerned with making sure this baby turns out to be a movie worth watching," he says. "My job is to make a contemporary and fresh-feeling movie about what is an old and iconic character."
And the competing Holmes movie, a comedy starring Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen?
"We've done as much as we can to sabotage that."
Gerard and Thandie Newton on turning down other films to make RocknRolla:
Gerard and Thandie on the completely uncool dance they do in the film:
Gerard on a 300 sequel: