Violence is the primary form of communication among all the film's macho posturers.


Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Idris Elba, Chris Bridges, Jeremy Piven, Gemma Arterton
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Warner Brothers
First date: 2008
UK Release Date: 2008-09-05 (General release)
US Release Date: 2008-10-08 (Limited release)

As a gangster named One Two, Gerard Butler is suitably rough around all his edges. Possessed of the requisite good heart, not to mention excellent instincts when it comes to surviving the worst sorts of bloody abuse handed down by heavily tattooed Russian thugs, One Two is a charismatic, if not exactly surprising, center for RocknRolla. The title, as narrator Archy (Mark Strong) helpfully intones at the start, refers to the sort of rock star -- literal and metaphorical -- who lives fast and furiously, indulges in sex, drugs, fame and glamour, who "wants the fucking lot."

The film delivers a rather abject exemplar in the punk-addict named Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell): he appears in abstract arty imagery under Archy's voiceover. But this superficial, self-destructive celebrity version of the rocknrolla doesn't detract from the implication that One Two is in fact the consummate rocknrolla. He's cool not because he tries to be. He just is.

One Two is the most visibly heroic figure in Guy Ritchie's latest version of the movie he keeps making. As always in Guyville, this figure is loyal to his mates (Handsome Bob [Tom Hardy] and Mumbles [Idris Elba]) and more or less opposed to an unctuous, navel-gazing crime boss. This one is named Lenny (Tom Wilkinson), and he's particularly put out because his stepson is that young-and-dumb rocknrolla Johnny Quid, ever in crisis and so, in need of parental rescue. The crowded plot -- which Archy explains, a lot -- includes as well the man with whom Lenny is trying desperately to wrangle a real estate deal, a Russian named Uri (Karel Roden), who comes equipped with those tattooed thugs who batter One Two to a bloody pulp.

Violence is the primary form of communication among all the film's macho posturers. Lenny manages his abuses by proxy, sending his number two, Archy, master of "the slap," to persuade or dispatch all who might contradict him. Repeatedly, the damage is inflicted with comedic excess, not to mention Ritchie's signature stylization: zappy pans, uproarious editing, and smashmouth fight-scene close-ups, all insisting on the noisiness and visceral pounding that movie gangsters love to inflict and take: when Archy instructs a squad of newbies on the art of the slap, he does so with fast-decreasing patience, as one fellow exhibits particular lunkheadedness. The Three Stooges-y build-up and jokey payoff align you with Archy's relative wit ("If a slap doesn't work, he instructs, "you cut him or you pay him, but keep the receipts, 'cause this isnn't the mafia now"). Compared to his students, he's a genius, though you might also note that he's a longtime employee of the sleaziest man in London, Lenny ("There's no school like the old school," the old man insists, "and I'm the headmaster").

One Two is not burdened with such affiliation. He and his friends take work where they can get it. Here, he's assigned a series of mini-missions by Uri's accountant, Stella (Thandie Newton), the movie's requisite ethereal girl -- perfectly designed, brilliant, and apparently choosy about her sex partners. Their mutual attraction is made visible during their series of meetings in posh locations -- an art gallery where lighting and architecture highlight the exquisite length of her legs, a restaurant where his lack of finesse makes him seem conventionally "authentic," even vaguely charming.

One Two's worthiness is further highlighted in his downright decent behavior toward Handsome Bob, whose concern about an imminent five-year prison sentence finds expression in a confession: he's got a crush on One Two. On hearing this news, One Two's instant response -- fear, anger, name-calling -- ensures his hetero credentials (as does that ongoing flirtation with star-girl Stella). Yet loyalOne Two's softening, his genuine loyalty and affection for Handsome Bob even if he is a "poof," also make him seem a rather progressive sort, for a gangster. He takes to heart Mumbles' judgment: "If I could be half the human that Bob is at the price of being a poof, I'd think about it. Not for too long, but I'd give a pause."

The question of how much you know about your mates goes to the heart of gangster codes, in particular, trust. While the men are all bent on proving their hard bodies and spiritual toughness, they are even more invested in the reasons they go to such lengths. Those occupying the upper echelon -- Lenny and Uri -- are less able to trust the men around and below them, because their trustworthiness, by definition, is premised on money.

This is ever the dilemma of the rocknrolla, of course, that friendship is a matter of exchange. The film's subplots offer shadings of this dilemma, in Johnny Quid's management team (Jeremy Piven, slightly skuzzier here than as Ari Gold, and Ludacris, who mutters what seems the film's truest line, "Rockers like that never die, they just wither and give me pain"), instructed to locate their star who's disappeared in a fake death (rock stars make more money when they're dead, yadda yadda) and then steals his stepfather's precious possession, a painting lent to him by Uri (for whom it is an extra precious possession). Johnny evinces an abiding fury at Archy, who picks him up at boarding school in various flashbacks, illustrating the young man's loneliness and growing meanness.

Even as it suggests that such meanness is a function of a sad childhood and ugly/absent parenting, RocknRolla repeatedly shakes up and spits out the possibilities of who might be redeemed and who absolutely cannot, punishing the latter and affiliating the former. More sad childhoods are sure to ensue.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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