Review: LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS (R)

From left to right: Dexter Fletcher, Vas Blackwood, Jason Statham, and Jason Flemyng.

By STEPHEN EARNEST / June 6, 2010

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is funny, foul-mouthed, fast-paced, incomprehensible, witty, and original. It’s one of the finest examples of a caper film done right and provided me with an immensely enjoyable viewing experience.

In relation to all of the twists and turns that the movie takes, the storyline is fairly minute. You’ll be dumbfounded by how many times writer/director Guy Ritchie will flip something on its ear and surprise you. It stars Nick Moran as Eddie, a card sharp who teams up with his buddies Bacon (Jason Statham), Soap (Dexter Fletcher), and Tom (Jason Flemyng) to put money into a high-stakes card game. The man in charge of the game is “Hatchet” Harry (P.H. Moriarty), a gangster and local porn king. Do we have any idea what kind of card game they’re playing? It’s called three card brag, but I have absolutely no idea how it works.

So, naturally, Eddie loses the card game and ends up owing Harry half a million pounds. Harry’s brutish henchman, Barry the Baptist (played with utmost ferocity by bare-knuckle boxer Lenny McLean), warns Eddie that if he and his friends to get the money to Harry in a weeks time, he can expect physical harm.

The plot unravels into much, much more complication than that. Several other characters are added into the mix, such as a Greek arms dealer, a group of misinformed drug dealers, an abusive thief named Dog and his gang of misfits, a pair of bungling small-time criminals, a menacing debt collector and his son, and a black drug dealer named Rory Breaker.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is an incredibly entertaining film. Despite the near nonexistent character depth, you’ll be surprised by how involved you get. It’s implausible and hectic, but controlled, and I like that about it. It’s not afraid to get too out there, but not so far that it gets preposterous. It’s still within reach of reality and possibility.

The writing is brilliant. Ritchie uses Cockney-rhyming slang for much of the dialogue and it’s hard to understand at first, but you eventually pick up on it. My advice would be to either watch it a second time or use subtitles (like I did). The pacing is wonderful, the direction is keen, and the cinematography is gritty. Before directing this film, Ritchie directed commercials and he sort of uses some of the same techniques. Overall, I think that these techniques are beneficial in giving Lock, Stock its technically “wild” nature.

Overall, I was completely impressed by Ritchie’s debut. It’s got to one of the most impressive out there, and for good reason, too. Here is a film so undeniably original that it demands attention. And it’s hilarious — not only in the things that the characters say, but in the things that they do. Most of the humor is slapstick, and as unappealing as that may sound, it’s actually not. Ritchie does it justice. He throws his characters into hilarious situations and we get to watch as they try and wiggle their way out.

Also, there is a great soundtrack here. One of the best I’ve ever heard. Ritchie has great music choice, throwing in songs from James Brown to the Stooges to even Stretch. It gives a very much Tarantino-like effect to the film, making violent situations comical.

Don’t let Guy Ritchie’s recent career moves dissuade you from watching this film. It’s entertaining, interesting, enjoyable, and it’s not likely that you’ll anything like it again. And if you do, I can guarantee it won’t nearly be as good.

RATING: 4/4