Well this has come as initially unexpected, but also completely out of the blue, it’s looking like Warner’s either have little faith in the film overall or, as i suspect is more likely, they fear there is a limited market for it stateside, which is bizzaire as its stuffed to the gills with big up-and-coming and established Hollywood names, unlike say Lock, Stock anyway here is what Warner Bros. President and COO Alan Horn on Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla (per LA Times):

“I think it’s a well-made picture, but while it’s funny in spots, it’s very English,” he said. “I don’t think it’s broadly commercial. It feels like a film that deserves a spirited release, but not a wide one. Joel has an 800-screen deal, which we’ll honor, but we might not be willing to spend the marketing money he wants us to.”

A paragraph later…

“For now, we’re preparing to release the film in October, but I don’t see it starting out on 800 screens. If Joel is thinking there is someone out there willing to spend twice as much money as we’re willing to, I’m sure he will pursue that.”

I’m a huge fan of Guy Ritchie’s first two films, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch; I think he was most dialed-in as an auteur on the over-hated (but admittedly very poor) Swept Away; and I can’t understand how anyone, no matter how talented, could rebound from a movie as unreleasably bonkers as Revolver. That said, I respect the Guy. He turned his back on a potential Hollywood windfall to make two highly uncommercial passion projects, and crawled out from under the resulting rubble to make another British caper movie on WB’s dime. He does not lack for moxie, which makes him a perfect filmmaking partner for Joel Silver,

Unfortunately, WB doesn’t feel terribly indebted to Silver at the moment, so they’ve decided to dump RocknRolla in a very crowded October on fewer than 800 screens. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the studio did roughly the same thing to Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, in 2005.

I understand that WB is overwhelmed at the moment with the remaining treasures of New Line (and kudos to them for getting the Gavin O’Connor’s inexplicably delayed Pride And Glory out into theaters this year), but there’s nothing prohibitively “British” about this, however on a note more close to home there is no doubt in my mind that RocknRolla will have the huge release here it deserves, its just a shame it doesn’t look set to gain the exposure Ritchie really needs in America. Anyway…

The trailer’s pretty slick, suggesting a return to Lock, Stock territory. Also, a respectable individual who’s seen RocknRolla, thinks it’s “as good as Snatch”. If so, it makes plenty of sense for Silver to shop his Ritchie flick to Lionsgate and Sony (again, per the LA Times), neither of which is contending with a backlog of Robert Shaye-greenlit gems. Gerard Butler may have cooled a bit sense 300, but put him in a dude-skewing movie like this, and I think he’s still pretty valuable. Throw in Jeremy Piven, Tom Wilkinson, Idris Elba, Thandie Newton and Ludacris, and that thar’s a very appealing ensemble.

Mostly, I need Silver to succeed one way or another with the modestly-budgeted RocknRolla because that’s probably the only way he’ll get another Shane Black movie made. Then again, even a flush-with-success Silver couldn’t force WB to release Kiss Kiss Bang Bang wider than 226 screens. If this all goes south, I’m afraid I’d settle for a Black-scripted Lethal Weapon 5, and to add to this Black and Ritchie have Robert Downey Jr. starring Sherlock Holmes project coming up, that i must say, is one of my most eagerly awaited films of next year.

RocknRolla is released in the UK on the 1st September.