Monday, 30 July 2007
LOCK, STOCK & TWO SMOKING BARRELS
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1999) dir. Guy Ritchie
Starring: Jason Statham, Jason Flemyng, Nick Moran, Vinnie Jones
“Lock, Stocking and Two Smoking Barrels” is one of the fastest, funnier, and more enjoyable ways to spend an hour and a half of your time. It’s essentially a classic comedy of errors, with lots of guns, swearing and bloodshed. It has a loopy, Byzantine plot, constructed like a rat race for the dozen characters or so running through a complex maze all looking for the cheese at the end.
The cheese at the end of this race is either one three things – a half a million pounds - cash, several dozen bags of premium grow-op weed, or two antique long-barreled rifles. The chief protagonists, Eddie, Bacon, Tom and Soap are a group of petty criminals who get fucked over in a card game which was supposed to net them thousands of dollars of money. Instead the leader, Eddie (Nick Moran), loses £500,000, which he has only one week to pay back. Like traditional comedies of errors, the solution comes to them by accident – next door, a pathetic group of potheads have grown and harvested more than enough weed to play back Eddie’s loan. When they overhear another group of thugs planning to steal their stash, they decide ambush the thieves and make off with the weed themselves.
Of course things don’t go as planned as they try to sell the weed to the same gangsters who operated the grow-op. Things just get more and more twisted as each group of gangsters cross and intersect each other in hopes of claiming the big score. Lots of bodies and bullets pile up in the process.
The star of the film is the plot, and it really is a work of art. It’s virtually airtight and holds up remarkably well without obvious exposition. But the plot wouldn’t be worth anything if it weren’t for the colourful actors who inhabit their colourful characters. Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham shine the brightest and both of them have gone on to successful careers as low-rent action heavies. In fact, I think Statham has created a subgenre unto himself – the “Jason Statham” action film (“The Transporter”, “Crank” and the upcoming “War”).
Though the plot is complex Ritchie keeps the storytelling simple by relying strictly on plot instead of character development. “Lock, Stock” is old school in the Melville or Dassin school of crime filmmaking. Our protagonists’ journey is motivated by money. There’s no token emotional character arcs or love interests. In fact there’s only one female character in the film, though ironically, she is given perhaps the most bad-ass of scenes to play – mowing down a set of thieves with a massive machine gun.
Guy Ritchie amps up the style with a variety of shooting speeds, odd camera angles, funky music, flashbacks and interconnecting storylines. Though many of his frames are inspired by the Tarantino/Woo school of 90’s filmmaking, the film rarely feels tired or derivative. Perhaps it’s the English hooliganness of it.
As a comedy of errors in the crime genre the film owes a lot to Martin Brest’s “Midnight Run”, and ZAZ’s “Ruthless People”. In both these films the actions of our heroes are driven by happy accidents, sloppy mistakes and mistaken identities. “Lock Stock is no exception”, and Ritchie does at least one thing right in his screenplay, he puts more than enough obstacles in front of his heroes.
Watching “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” with some hot coffee and a bagel was the perfect Sunday morning today. It exercised my eyes, ears and brain enough to kickstart me for the day, but not too much to give me a headache or a hangover. Enjoy.
Buy it here: Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (Widescreen Edition)