Knight at the Movies Archives
Guy Ritchie returns to form, so does Kevin Smith
Two movies opening this week highlight what I hope is a continuing trend in mainstream releases aimed at straight guy audiences:
gay characters afforded not just respect but understanding, sensitivity and sometimes, a dash of awe by their straight male
counterparts. After Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Tropic Thunder, two very different recent releases that were pitched to very
different demographics, it’s great to add both Guy Ritchie’s Rocknrolla and Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno to this list.
Writer-director Guy Ritchie returns to what he does best in Rocknrolla, his third film featuring gangsters, violence, flashy editing
tricks, pulsing soundtrack, and nearly indecipherable cockney accents. This time out he follows a pair of jocular thieves (300’s Gerard
Butler) as One Two and “The Wire’s” Idris Elba as his partner Mumbles who borrow money from big time loan shark Lenny Cole
(Michael Clayton’s Tom Wilkinson) to fund a real estate deal. But then things go wrong and a complicated plot gets even more so
when a “lucky” painting gets stolen from a Russian mob boss whose accountant, luscious Thandie Newton, is arranging for One Two
and Mumbles to steal from him. The painting, it turns out, has been stolen as an act of revenge by Lenny’s step-son, a crack head
rock star named Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell) who is thought by the public to be dead. A major subplot involves an unrequited crush
on One Two by his getaway driver Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy) who then uses his gay sexuality to get information out of the
accountant’s gay husband, a fey lawyer with S&M tendencies.
There’s a lot more to Ritchie’s typical pretzel twisted plot which is sometimes so convoluted that not even the narration of Lenny’s
top henchman Archie (Mark Strong) can sort it out but the characters are all having such violent fun the audience gets swept along
for the ride. Wilkinson, as always, is a pleasure to watch chewing up the scenery and the bantering between Butler and Elba is
particularly endearing. As is the scene in which Handsome Bob comes out to One Two the night before Bob is scheduled to do a
prison stretch for five years. One Two uses every gay slur in the playbook on hearing Bob’s confession but it’s feigned disgust and
Ritchie cuts away from the beautifully played scene just at the point that it seems that something is about to happen between the
two. What actually happened then becomes a running joke throughout the movie (and is hilariously revealed over the end credits).
Then there’s Johnny Quid who is sometimes referred to as Johnny Queer by the others – and it’s never quite clear whether Johnny Q,
with his six pac-abs and low rider jeans is really one of Our Own or not. In fact, this movie populated with tough guys is so littered
with gay characters and jokes about being gay so good naturedly it becomes a non-issue. The straight men splutter and hurl
invectives and claim they’d rather be dead than gay but when it comes down to it no one really seems to care all that much. With
such an abundance of gay material and a battery of lingering close-ups of a multiple of spectacular male torsos (Johnny Q, a
persistent Russian hit man, etc.), Richie’s soon to be ex brother-in-law Christopher Ciccone’s claim that he’s a homophobe seems
suspect. Homophobe or not, this is the movie of a man who certainly appreciates the male form.
Rocknrolla, shot in murky shakes of blue, black and gray is a lot more fun than its color scheme would suggest and a sequel,
announced at the credits, is certainly tantalizing. Maybe next time out Handsome Bob and Johnny Q will find one another and have
There’s no need to fantasize when it comes to folks getting it on – gay, straight, tri-sexual – in writer-director Kevin Smith’s very
funny comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno. The movie follows the resolve of the two nearly destitute leading characters (Seth
Rogan and Elizabeth Banks) who, though they are lifelong friends, decide to make the aforesaid porn film to make ends meet.
Zack makes this decision after he and Miri attend a high school reunion. While Miri is drunkenly offering herself to Bobby the former
quarterback (played by Superman Returns supper hottie and sweet as molasses Brandon Routh) Zack is learning that the
quarterback's got a gay lover who is also a successful porn star named Brandon (Justin Long, famed as the “Mac guy” in the TV
commercials in a way over the top performance). Zack isn’t phased by the couple’s gay sexuality (after watching the couple bicker
he marvels, “They fight just like real people”) and decides that he and Miri should follow Brandon’s example and get into porn with
their own movie. Reluctantly, Miri agrees.
The rest of the movie follows the exploits of the duo as they cast the film with an endearing, rag tag group of sexual amateurs and
professionals (of multiple persuasions) (including Tracy Lords) and overcome a series of mishaps and personal missteps on the
bumpy road to love and profits while making porn. Smith’s comedy retains his sure feel for slacker humor adding plenty of the
currently in vogue gross-out visual yuks into the mix, and there’s also a fair amount of heart in the film. Actually, it’s this last
surprising ingredient that helps elevate the movie from its smarmy trappings. Surprisingly, Zack and Miri Make a Porno turns out to be
an extremely rare movie commodity – a romantic comedy for guys.
Rocknrolla-Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Exclusive Edition of 10-29-08 Knight at the Movies Column
By Richard Knight, Jr.