Without Guy Ritchie, I don’t think American audiences would be aware of British gangster films and their seedy criminal underground that is almost a new-aged noir. One of the most fun, excitingly humorous and well written cult-classics in the last 10 years, Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels is an absolute favorite of mine and has been for a long time. If you love guns, humor, dry wit and great characters then look no further than this gem from Guy Ritchie.
Lock, Stock is about 4 close friends, who, (not entirely proud of the way they make money), have autonomously scraped together some semi-respectable financial gains and are content with their place in the world. Ed, the closest thing these friends have to a leader, has gained a seat at a secretive, hopefully lucrative, underground card game. Ed convinces his friends (Soap, Bacon and Tom) to loan him the money to get in on the game with the prospect of a good “return on investment” plus interest. The game goes awry and instead of just losing it all, he also owes “Hatchet” Harry (the man he lost to), who is not the kind of man you want to owe anything to. The foursome now have 1 week to make back their money and pay off what they owe. As can be expected, they try whatever they can and in doing so, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.
Now, the one constant element in a Guy Ritchie film is the enormous breadth and diversity of characters. It really speaks to Ritchie’s credit that he is able to weave this intricate plot, on top of that throw in a few sub-plots, then flesh all the characters out with great and convincing actors. It’s a tremendous juggling act and while other films try something this elaborate and their story becomes a muddled/confusing mess, Ritchie is able to make his story very engaging and constantly build to a great climax. This is one of his best films where he creates an engaging story that, as I put it, “has everyone working for everyone else but no one knows it.” He’s just a contemporary master in my opinion.
With such diverse eclectic casting including an intense Vinnie Jones and Sting (for no clear real reason, but I suspect it was to aid in helping people forget he was in Dune) this film is a treat from beginning to end. However, the real standout (well sort of) is Jason Statham. Not a great actor by any means but he’s got a likable persona and a gritty charisma that’s just appealing…kind of like Bruce Willis. It’s no wonder (because of his suave gruffness) he was in a ton of films immediately following this; most notable being Snatch, The Transporter and Crank.
Lock, Stock has a variety of funny and well written lines in this film, and I think that humor is Ritchie’s underused strength. Now these lines aren’t near as quotable as some other comedies, but I guarantee you will find some great zingers that you’ll be trying to use in any conversation days after every viewing. Another unique aspect to this film (which I love) is that there aren’t any good or bad guys – everyone, to put it simply, is a criminal. It somehow makes the entire life of crime almost appealing (like gangster films from the 30’s and 40’s). However, the appealing bit is not the crimes themselves but the friendship that develops among these so-called thieves.
There’s some surprising depth there (that bond between friends) which it is just fun to watch. I believe this is what makes Lock, Stock (and all Ritchie crime films actually) so interesting. It’s that all the characters have a varying degree of infamy (kind of like cowboys films) and while there is no true good guy, you end up liking and want to follow the least unsavory criminal that makes it out of the entire mess.
In my opinion, Lock, Stock is as loved, if not more, then quasi-predecessors The Boondock Saints and Pulp Fiction. All these films have almost developed their own genre since they don’t fit snugly into just one. What is this new genre you ask??…well I don’t know for sure but it’s something like this “actiony, thriller-esque, semi-dark drama…on speed and testosterone“.
G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED