IMDB #171 Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Remember when Guy Ritchie was cool? What happened? Oh yeah, he married Madonna, cast her in a remake of Swept Away, and renamed her character after his mother. I wonder why that didn't work out?

But today, we take a look at his triumphant emergence on the scene with 1999's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

The Key Players:

Ritchie recently proved he could direct something other than comic gangster fables with the winning Sherlock Holmes, though that in its way was sort of like Snatch or Lock, Stock without the kickin' soundtrack. But his shtick had been getting a little old, as witnessed by the serviceable but indifferently-recieved RocknRolla, even after his departures had gone even worse (like the ridiculously misguided Revolver and the aforementioned Swept Away). Holmes has brought the newly Madonna-free Ritchie back into standing as a bankable talent- I guess we'll see how he cashes it in.

He directs a large ensemble, the only notables of which include future action-superstar Jason Statham (The Transporters, Cranks, The Italian Job) and a cameo by some banjo player named Gordon Sumner (though Jason Flemyng and Dexter Fletcher have pretty solid careers as "Hey It's That Guy!"s).

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The Story:

Our ostensible main characters are four friends: a card sharp, a cook, a grifter, and a...dude played by Jason Statham (I guess he's also a grifter, as it were) pool £100,000 to back the card sharp in a high stakes game- a game that turns out to be rigged, and they end up with a £500,000 debt to a local "porn king."

The porn king, meanwhile, hires two incompetent thugs to steal the titular pair of priceless antique rifles, a group of criminals robs a trio of middle-class marijuana-growers, drawing the ire of their afro-headed supplier and his own thugs.

Our four heroes decide to rob the first group of criminals after they've cleaned out the weed-farm, keep the cash, and sell the weed to the local kingpin- who is of course the same afro-ed psycho they've indirectly stolen it from. They purchase some guns along the way, but all they can scrounge are two anicent rifles they're not sure will even fire. Hmmm.

The Artistry:

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels clearly demonstrates Ritchie's propensity for fun montages, acid-washed visuals, and a frenetic pacing right away (though one can argue that producer Matthew Vaughn might deserve just as much credit).

But the screenplay's balance of wit, sarcasm, casual profanity, and fully-formed characters (or cariacatures) are what makes it worth multiple viewings.

Nearly every character, no matter the limited amount of time, makes an impression- be it's Sting's glowering father figure, Vinnie Jones as an acerbic muscleman (not that he plays anything else, really), the bumbling comic duo that steals the rifles, or Vas Blackwood silently watching the tv after lighting a tosser on fire.

The cockney rhyming slang helps, especially since it's just presented as is instead of explained (like in the weakest single scene from Ocean's 11).

I suppose the frank portrayal of gangland violence was sort of extreme, even just 11 years ago, but it's a yawn these days. Oh, he shot off a dude's foot? Meh.

But the lived-in underworld that Lock, Stock creates is memorable enough to be worth visiting again (which Ritchie himself would do with Snatch), and the breezy chemistry of the cast (the celebratory montage of drinking between our heroes late in the film seems pretty real) makes it a minor modern classic.


The muscleman (and his moppet son) ends up with the money, the two bands of criminals take each other out, and our four compatriots have only two musty rifles to show for their troubles (but no debt, after the duo of thugs takes out the porn king in a hilarious crossed-wire act of desperation). They send loudmouth Tom to throw them off a bridge, just as they realize they're worth a quarter mil each! A hilarious ambiguous freeze-frame ensues.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

I like it right here: a unique vision, a fun time had by all. My only quibble would be that Snatch is even higher, while Matthew Vaughn's superior Layer Cake is nowhere to be found. But you can't have everything.

The Legacy:

Surely the whole "Guy Ritchie movie" Type has lead to the greenlighting of lesse fare, your Smokin' Aceses of the world and all. There was also brief tv series adapted from the film.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

I'm pretty partial to the very opening scene, with Statham's rapid patter giving way to a kickass Ocean Colour Scene set flight from the 'cozzers.'

Leftover Thoughts:

-The lack of an Oxford comma in this film's title bothers me. I will defend the Oxford comma with my life.

-My favorite running joke is the way everyone makes fun of Flemyng's character as if he's fat. "Tom what have you been eating?"

-Most of the quotes are funnier in context, really. It's the banter, not the lines themselves.

Coming Up...

170. V For Vendetta

169. Star Trek

168. The Wages Of Fear

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