Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1999)

Starring Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Nick Moran, Jason Statham, Steve MacKintosh, Vinnie Jones, and Sting.
Written and directed by Guy Ritchie.

Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels

Grade: B+

Review by Jeff Vorndam.

It's no mystery why Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels was the #1 box office champ released in the UK last year. The debut film from commercial and music video director Guy Ritchie, Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels is kinetic, ironic, and rollicking with no pretentions toward realism or making a statement. It's simply a good time at the movies. For 100 minutes you're keeping up with the breakneck plot which twists around over itself like a pretzel. In the end, you're left with a silly grin on your face and the knowledge that you've been thoroughly entertained.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking BarrelsRitchie's style is certainly derivative; if you've seen Reservoir Dogs or Trainspotting you will see nothing new here--slo-mo, freeze-frame, witty and talky dialogue, charismatic criminals, loopy music, and so forth. It's all done so exuberantly, without any attempt to be serious, that it's palatable. Plus, the stylistic excursions do look cool, they are visceral and engaging. The dialogue is funny too, which separates this film from the likes of The Big Hit.

So maybe now you're thinking this film is comparable to warmed-over Tarantino, like a Robert Rodriguez movie. However, the story is more elaborate and rewarding. There are many jokes set up early in the film that get huge payoffs by the end. Instead of telling the many characters' stories in installments (a la Pulp Fiction), Richie cross-cuts between all of them until they connect with each other. You will have to pay close attention to keep track of all the players and decipher a few cockney accents, but it's worth it.

In its story, this film is comparable to two early British crime films: The Lavender Hill Mob for its comedy and The Long Good Friday for its action. Some of the actors from the latter film appear in Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels. It helps that the cast is a group of unknowns, because this is a film in which you never can guess what the fates of any of the characters are going to be. The film moves too fast to allow you to think, but in hindsight eveyone's motivations make sense and there aren't any loose ends. The less you know about the story going in, the more you'll like Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.

Note: Jeff later changed his rating for this film from a B+ to a B.

Review © March 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
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