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Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

Two Smoking Barrels,
Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels: Director’s Cut

A disgrace to criminals everywhere

Directed by:

Guy Ritchie

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 126 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom

Before the world and his brother started making pseudo-Tarantino romps about Cockney scamps brandishing guns and dealing drugs, ‘Lock, Stock’ was something of a guiding light in British cinema. It redefined a genre – a genre that, just a few years later, has already grown weary and horrendously over-played. This one continues to stand head, shoulders and torso above it’s many imitators, and I’m willing to bet it always will.

A gigantic cast of likely lad-types, from ball-grabber Vinnie Jones to tree-hugger Sting, take part in this funny, violent and at times ridiculously complex East London run-around. Nick Moran is the young rapscallion who runs up a half-million pound debt swimming with the sharks on the card table. Frank Harper plays the next door neighbour planning to rip-off the local big-time drug-dealer. Steven Mackintosh is that drug-dealer. And P.H. Moriarty is the ‘Hatchet’ who wants his money back.

Around these characters and many, many more forms a story relying heavily on coincidences, contrivances, and complications to reach an end point where you’ll more than likely have a couple of questions that need answering. If that’s the case then don’t worry about it too much, because it probably requires at least three viewings to get the most out of it: one to grasp the dialogue, one to attempt to fathom what’s going on, and one to tie it all together. Not too much to ask, is it?

There’s little doubting that once you’ve manoeuvred your way around all of those stumbling blocks, there’s an extremely not bad film waiting to be discovered. The acting is above average, there are some genuinely memorable set-pieces, and it’s all under-pinned by some great biting wit.

On the downside, director Guy Ritchie’s excessive use of such techniques as freeze-framing would have left me wondering whether my DVD player was broken, had I not already seen it in the cinema (on that occasion, I thought it was the theatre’s projector that was faulty). More than anything, Ritchie’s obsession with stylistics proves an unnecessary distraction from a film that’s tough enough to get to grips with as it is. It also starts off heavy in narration, only to abandon it almost completely as the film progresses (one of my pet hates).

But provided you’re able to keep up with everything that’s going on (a challenge in itself), then you should find it all good fun. Lovely-jubbly.

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It's Got: Blood, swearies and Cat from ‘Red Dwarf’ (or Danny John-Jules as his passport knows him).

It Needs: Mike Reid.

DVD Extras Some out-takes and a trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 2/10

Summary

Complex, comical, and streets ahead of the rip-off merchants, this is one of the most influential Brit-flicks of the 90s.

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