Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
While America may once have been a British colony, we've taken the lead in terms of movie making. Our films are now sent
all over the world and for the most part other nations look to the United States for entertainment. Not that there aren't
homegrown products. Sometimes we're lucky and those films are imported (one might also argue that in some cases we're
not so lucky if the film is sub par). We're lucky to have been sent one of the most popular films in British history, Lock,
Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, a bloody good mix of genres that introduces the world to up and coming filmmaker Guy
Ritchie and a cast of terrific actors who are a mixture of veterans (like Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Stephen
Mackintosh, Nicholas Rowe) and newcomers (Nick Moran, Jason Statham, and British football star Vinnie Jones).
While some have invoked comparisons with the oeuvre of Quentin Tarantino or Richard Lester in reviewing this rollicking
caper comedy, Ritchie possesses a style all his own. Like many who cut their teeth in rock videos, this writer-director
creates staccato scenes and pulls out various techniques from slow motion, flashbacks, quick cuts and a soundtrack that
uses everything from pop (Dusty Springfield), R&B (James Brown) to a theme from Zorba, the Greek! In less capable
hands this melange might not work, but Ritchie's gift is his ability to amalgamate it all into a roistering good time.
In some ways, the clever plotting of this story which revolves around a card sharp who runs afoul of local gangsters invokes,
of all things, Shakespeare. There are mirror subplots, a pair of somewhat inept thieves who function in much the same way
the clowns do in the Bard's work (think Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing or even the Porter in Macbeth).
Additionally, despite its setting on the outskirts of the underworld, this is a very moral film. The characters may be drug
dealers or thugs but they have a code of ethics that they will not break. Like all good film directors, Ritchie has created a
universe in which this tale unfolds. Perhaps ironically, the only major female character is a no-nonsense dealer who presides
over the fatal card game.
This is a film chockablock with funny lines, amusing situations and marvelous performances. American ears may need a
moment or two to adjust to the accents and slang, but the film quickly captures the audience and takes them on a roller
coaster ride. There's not a false note in the performances of the ensemble either. The four lads who form the core group of
protagonists are the rail-thin Tom (Flemyng) who is chided by the others over his weight, Soap (Fletcher), a cook with a
penchant for cleanliness and hidden reserves of potential violence, Bacon (Stratham), a fast-talking con man, and the
ringleader Eddie (Moran). They are believable as a group and as individuals. Of the large canvass of supporting players,
special mention should be made for the contributions of Sting, as Eddie's surly father, Vas Blacwood as a Caribbean drug
lord, P.H. Moriarty as a ruthless underworld boss, the late Lenny MacLean as his right-hand man and Vinnie Jones (a
sports star in Great Britain who here displays such ease, he's clearly found a secondary career) as an enforcer who takes his
young son along.
Because the plot is rather complicated and so much of it relies on surprises--I won't reveal too much. I will say I saw the film
twice and enjoyed it as much the second time--in fact, I found more layers and nuances. The dialogue flies by, it almost
requires additional viewings. While it's arguable whether Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels might end up on lists as one
of the year's best films, I can say this: It's one of the year's most enjoyable and entertaining.
© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.