December 2, 2009


We’re ten years on in Guy Ritchie’s career, and from all evidence he’s about to turn the corner into pure commercial filmmaking. For most people there’s only one answer to what derailed him, and that is: Madonna. The pre-Madonna years featured Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch, the Madonna years featured Swept Away and Revolver, and the post-Madonna’s are now Rocknrolla and Sherlock Holmes, which should be one of the big pictures of 2009. My review of Guy’s Ritchie’s first film after this jump.

lock_stock_two_smoking_barrels_movie_image_vinnie_jones_01.jpgLock, Stock is one of the numerous 90’s crime films to come in the wake of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. It’s a genre that burnt itself out rapidly, with only people like Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie proving themselves above the fray. The majority of the genre was overheated pabulum like Things to Do in Denver While You’re Dead, and Two Days in the Valley. Cute, self-conscious, overly stylized at times, the sub-genre is crap. Guy Ritchie came at the tail end of it, and seemed a bit fresher to Americans for two reasons: He was British and he had chops. Produced by Mathew (Kick Ass) Vaughn, Ritchie’s first two films themselves aren’t much of anything. They dissolve upon contact, but they’re done with a great deal of finesse. Yet, I feel I must note that once their partnership faded, I prefer at this juncture Mathew Vaughn’s films, as Layer Cake seems better than either Lock, Stock or Snatch.

lock_stock_two_smoking_barrels_movie_image_jason_flemyng_statham_01.jpgLS&2B stars a quartet of then-young British thespians: Jason Fleyming is Tom, the sort of brains of the operation. Nick Moran is Eddie, the young card sharp who needs everyone’s cash to play in the big game. Jason Statham is Bacon, the brawns of the operation, the street hustler, and Dexter Fletcher is Soap, the straightest of the lot who works as a chef and strives for cleanliness. In the game they’re up against Hatchet Harry (P.H. Moriarty), and when the game goes south, the boys end up in the hole for half a million pounds. They have one week to get it. There’s another plot about the stolen guns of the title, which then end up in the hands of the four when they want to enter a life of crime, but all of their plans are matched by other people doing heinous deeds, many of which involves a pot farm run by Rory Breaker (Vas Blackwood), a tough son of a bitch if there ever was one. There’s also Hatchet Harry’s muscle Big Chris (Vinnie Jones) who takes his son little Chris (Peter MacNicoll) with him whilst busting heads.

lock_stock_group.jpgThe labyrinthine plot is not really worth evoking more than this simple summary because there are so many series of crosses and double crosses, and confusions of what should be gotten and why, that to break it all down would get in the way of the fun of the film. It’s a tightly wound piece where everyone pings off the other at some point or another. And that’s what the film is about, unintentional collisions and ricochets, and Ritchie orchestrates what is obviously a movie made on the cheap with a surgeon’s precision: He moves from one modest set piece to the next. But there’s the sense that it’s all for laughs and so the more bad people are punished, and the mostly good people emerge relatively unscathed and somewhat unaware of all that was going on around them. In terms of construction, it’s masterful, of that there is no denying, but it also feels like spinning plates, as it is so tight that the film feels more like its deigning to show you its cleverness than creating anything more than a comic book version of cops and robbers. There’s something fun about its heightened reality, but after a while there’s a disconnect that comes from something so weightless dealing with violence and crime. To the film’s credit, it knows that its shallow, and Ritchie and company may have felt that it was their reel and in. It was, but Ritchie blew it by getting in with Madonna (it seems), and staking career capital on putting her in a remake of a Lina Wertmuller film, and then making a film that played as a tribute to Kabbalah. His mojo may be back. More on Ritchie as it develops.

The Universal Blu-ray is a cash-in on the release of Sherlock Holmes. There’s nothing new here. The transfer is widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS 5.1-HD. The transfer is fine, and though the soundtrack is limited by the production, the use of music, like the presence of James Brown makes the most of the surround tracks. Extras are limited to a featurette called “One Smoking Camera” (11 min.) with Tim Maurice-Jones talking about the shooting of the film, while “Lock, Stock and Two F**king Barrels” (2 min.) a montage of the cussing in the film.

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