Saturday, July 01, 2006

Movie Review: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

U.S. Release Date: 3/5/99
Running Time: 1:43
Rated: R (Violence, profanity, drugs, brief nudity)
Cast: Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Nick Moran, Jason Statham, Steven Mackintosh, Vinnie Jones, Sting, Lenny McLean, P.H. Moriarty, Steve Sweeney, Frank Harper, Stephen Marcus, Peter McNicholl, Vas Blackwood

Director: Guy Ritchie
Producer: Matthew Vaughn
Screenplay: Guy Ritchie
Music: David A. Hughes and John Murphy
Studio: Gramercy Pictures

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Guy Richie’s freshman affair is in a word: ingenious. With shades of Tarantino’s grit, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is an imaginative mix of violence, drugs, originality, and ingenuity. Although a trouble initially surfaces in following who’s who and what’s what, this uncertainty quickly subsides as the plot thickens and the threads begin to expertly intertwine.

To simplify the plot: Eddie (Nick Moran) gets involved in a high-stakes game of poker with his friends’ money, only to loose his £100,000 buy-in and leave £500,000 in debt. He and his pals, Tom (Jason Flemyng), Soap (Dexter Fletcher), and Bacon (Jason Statham), then decide to team together and devise a plan to pay back their debt.

In the process, the four purchase two double-barrel shotguns – from a couple of small-time thieves – to pull off a heist. The friends need cash quick to avoid having their fingers sliced off one by one. Meanwhile, several other players look to get in on the game simultaneously.

When Richie wrote this script with a sardonic and confident fountain pen, his certainty and inventiveness were stamped into the soul of his screenplay. In return, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels turned out to be a big-time success. Despite only grossing just under $4 million at the American box-office, Lock, Stock became one of the largest grossing movies in the history of the English box-office.

Lock Stock’s main strength is in watching each piece of the puzzle end in violence and play out in the main characters’ favor. With this style of fashioning his script in favor of the “good guys” and depicting the unfortunate luck of the “bad guys,” Richie sculpts an unpretentious and intelligent caper. In addition, while this intriguing structure most certainly defines the phrase, “being in the right place at the right time,” it also converts the film’s violence from macabre to comedic.

In a genre full of ho-hum, how could you refuse a film so fresh and absorbing? Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is jam-packed with unique characters, interesting twists, and tongue-in-cheek humor. And, with scenes like the story of the flaming man and the semi-conscious Gloria revived, you can’t go wrong.

According to the Cockney Rhyming Slang Dictionary in which the characters draw from: Twist and twirl or Rob Roy, you’d be a Joe Rook if you robbed yourself of taking a butcher’s hook at this lemon-squeezy-to-praise picture that’s worth every pound of your bees and honey. (***1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2006