Wednesday, July 17, 2013


(March 1999, U.S.)

When watching LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, I honestly can't decide whether the greater challenge lies in trying to keep up with and properly understand the rather thick Cockney accent of all the players involved or trying to keep up with and properly understand who owes who money, who's stealing from who and who wants to kill who and why.


This British crime story by Guy Ritchie (the EX-Mrs. Madonna!) is a heist film involving a self-confident young card sharp named Eddy (played by Nick Moran) who loses £500,000 to a powerful crime lord named "Hatchet" Harry Lonsdale (played by P.H. Moriarty) in a rigged game of three card brag (whatever the hell THAT is!). With virtually no hope of being able to pay off such a hefty debt, Eddy returns home and overhears his neighbors, a gang of thieves planning a heist on some marijuana growers supposedly loaded with cash and drugs. Eddy relays this information to his group of friends that include Bacon (played by newcomer Jason Statham before he became an action star), intending for them to rob the neighbors as they come back from their heist. They cleverly install taping equipment to record the conversations of their neighbors. Meanwhile, one of the friends Tom (played by Jason Flemyng) acquires a pair of antique shotguns from an underground dealer, known as Nick "the Greek" (played by Stephen Marcus), who also strikes a deal with Rory Breaker (played by Vas Blackwood), a rival sociopathic gangster, to buy the stolen drugs. Some time previously, Nick had purchased the guns from a pair of bungling small-time criminals, Gary and Dean (played by Victor McGuire and Jake Abraham), who had stolen them from a bankrupt lord as part of a job for Harry Lonsdale, not realizing that of the entire stolen firearms collection, his only desire was the two antique shotguns.

(okay, this is the part where I traditionally ask...are you following all of this so far??)

Right about now is where cliché and predictability take over. Just about every heist involved in this film goes horribly (and sometimes comically) wrong and by the time all the bullets are done flying, just about every character in this film is dead or on his way to bleeding to death. Except, of course, for our four friends that we've come to know and appreciate throughout the film because it all gets to a point where, despite their criminal intentions, they end up being the good guys. In the end , the four of them are arrested, but declared innocent after a wrongful identification by a traffic warden identified one of the other dead gangs as the prime suspects. The four reunite at Eddy's father’s (played by none other than Sting himself) bar and decide that Tom should dispose of the antique shotguns, which are the only remaining pieces of evidence that links them to any of these crimes. However, upon receiving an antique guns catalogue, it's revealed that the antique shotguns were each worth a great fortune. They frantically try to call Tom, and the film ends in a both literal and figurative cliffhanger when Tom’s mobile phone starts ringing as he hangs over the side of a bridge, preparing to drop the shotguns into the river and he has to pathetically decide whether to answer his phone or drop the guns into the river, as he was originally ordered to. My written description of this conclusion may not do enough justice here, but take my word for it...when you're watching it happen, it's funny (ha, bloody, ha!).

As a rule, I personally feel that most heist films don't differ very much from each other. We know the heist will go wrong, we know many will die and we know the better people will survive the entire ordeal. What's key in Guy Ritchie's film here (as it is in his follow-up, SNATCH) is dialogue; dialogue that quick, snappy, vulgar, entertaining and admittedly hard to follow if you're not paying attention to every bloody word! And I might add that there's enough of the word "fuck" and "fucking" in this film to make Dennis Hopper's character of Frank Booth in David Lynch's BLUE VELVET (1986) real fucking happy! One walks away from LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS wanting more because it's been so much damn fun to watch some of the best British screen hooligans I've seen since Stanley Kubrick's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971). I can't help but wonder how strongly Guy Ritchie may have been influenced by that film. If not that one, then certain the 1979 film version of The Who's QUADROPEHNIA comes to mind...with Cockney dialogue just as challenging to understand!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Eddie: "Alright, we hit 'em as soon as they come back. We'll be prepared...waiting...and they're armed."
Soap: "What was that? Armed? What do you mean armed? Armed with what?"
Eddie: "Err, bad breath, colorful language, feather duster...what do you think they're gonna be armed with? Guns, you tit!"
Soap: "Guns? You never said anything about guns! A minute ago this was the safest job in the world! Now it's turning into a bad day in Bosnia!"

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