If You Love Thandie Newton in Westworld, Watch Her in RocknRolla
By Olivia Armstrong
Fans who’ve followed Thandie Newton since her days on NBC medical drama, ER, will likely remember her from tearjerker festival favorites like The Pursuit of Happyness and Half of a Yellow Sun. It’s possible you missed her, however, in writer-director Guy Ritchie’s (criminally underrated) mob comedy RocknRolla, in which she embodies femme fatale Stella, thief of Gerard Butler’s heart and foil to the London mob. It’s in RocknRolla, nearly a decade before HBO’s Westworld — and her feminist host madam, Maeve Millay — rode into the zeitgeist, that we got a taste for Newton’s subtle takedown of the patriarchy with brains and beauty.
RocknRolla, the third crime farce in Ritchie’s funny-bad-guys trilogy (preceded by Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and his biggest critical success, Snatch), places Newton’s Stella in a precarious position of power over her male superiors — and their suitcases of cash — as the mob’s go-to accountant. Stella ambitiously assists her corrupt Russian boss Uri Omovich (Karel Roden) and mobster Lenny Cole (Tom Wilkinson) in a sweeping real estate swindle, moving funds to the appropriate parties so that they can take advantage. What the men in power fail to realize, however, is that Stella and small-time gangster One-Two (Gerard Butler) have plans of their own, and she’s the ringleader. There’s also a mysterious stolen painting, and an even more mysterious rock star in the mix, but over explaining their place in this gritty underworld would ruin the fun.
Though they navigate different fates, Stella and Newton’s Maeve Millay — Westworld’s robot prostitute with big plans — serve their respective narratives as the unlikely and wholly welcome badass. Strong females are all but absent from Ritchie’s films and Newton’s presence proved that changing up the formula by including one to serve as more than a love interest, only raises the stakes of the story.