Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels Review
First of all, if you think Guy Ritchie is just Madonna’s ex-husband, let me set you straight. This guy has written and directed some really interesting films. You may have seen his name attached to Sherlock Holmes (2009), which he directed, but his usual work is way less mainstream, conventional Hollywood fare.
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), Ritchie’s first feature length film, is one of the greatest filmmaking debuts I can think of. It’s unlike any other crime film (excluding Ritchie’s later films) in its use of character, cinematography, and story. What makes the film a real masterpiece is how complicated it is, while still being completely understandable.
All in all I’d say this film has one protagonist, Eddy (Nick Moran) but he is among three other main characters (Jason Statham, Dexter Fletcher, and Jason Flemyng) who work with and around him as a unit. The truly amazing facet of the film is all of its side characters—there seems to be around twenty of them and they all leave a distinct impression! Hatchet Harry, Big and Little Chris, Rory and his gang, four neighbors, four pot growers, two dumb burglars, two bartenders (one played by Sting), one unlucky traffic warden and Nick the Greek are just some that I remember, and each one is essential to the plot.
With so many characters, you can imagine how complex the plot could get—and it gets even more complex than that. I considered trying to summarize it, but really it’s something you have to see to believe. Part of the experience of watching the movie is trying to follow how much each character knows of what’s going on, and whether they’re walking straight into a terrible situation. I recommend turning on the English subtitles if you’re not used to British accents so you can more easily follow the plot and appreciate the expertly written dialogue.
While plot, characters, and dialogue are all great, the real pièce de résistance of this film for the discerning critic is the cinematography. The color palette is made up of muted sepia tones, and there’s some lovely play with light and dark. Movement drives the camera and the story, making it feel action-packed and fast-paced. One of my favorite shots involves a camera harness (I think) attached to Nick Moran, who stumbles around, transferring his discombobulation and nauseating shock to the viewer. The use of fast and slow motion is also excellent.Apart from these important factors, acting, music, editing, and set design are all also spot on. This movie, as well as Ritchie’s next one, Snatch. (2000) both get ten out of ten from me. If you’re looking for crime, action, comedy, or just a generally well-made film, and you don’t mind some violence, cursing, and heavy British accents, they both come highly recommended.