March 22, 2001 -- "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" is the hit movie that director Guy Ritchie (Mr. Madonna) had prior to making a very similar film with a much larger budget, called "Snatch." Of the two, I like the earlier film slightly more, but they are of very similar quality. The films show a definite Tarantino influence, mixing violence and humor in the criminal subculture.
"Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" has a very convoluted plot involving a large number of characters whose paths cross repeatedly in unexpected ways. The main characters are Eddie (played by Nick Moran), Tom (played by Jason Flemyng of "Rob Roy"), Bacon (Jason Statham), and Soap (Dexter Fletcher "Topsy Turvy"). The four lads stake Eddie, an unbeatable card shark, to a high stakes poker game with some very nasty characters. Little do they know, the game is rigged. Eddie loses. They have to come up with $800,000 in less than a week or they will start losing fingers. With their backs to the wall, they come up with a desperate plan to rob drug dealers.
In their attempts to get out of a jam, the four friends seem to be digging themselves deeper into a hole. Pretty soon they have a whole variety of dangerous characters hunting them on the East Side of London. There is a collection man, Big Chris (Vinnie Jones of "Gone in 60 Seconds"), his boss, Hatchet Harry (P.H. Moriarty) and the drug dealers they ripped off. There is also the matter of a pair of rare, valuable shotguns which figure into this complicated story. The bullets fly and the body count is high, but most of the violence is off screen, so it doesn't seem as bad as it might sound. The dialogue is clever and the plot is overstuffed with twists and coincidences. The ending is priceless.
Vinnie Jones (who also appears in "Snatch" as do several other characters in this film) is one of the more intriguing characters, a leg breaker with a strict code of ethics. He takes his son, Little Chris (Peter McNicholl) on his collection rounds with him, teaching him the ropes. He only loses his cool once, and it is a sight to behold. Jones has a way of portraying intelligence, thoughtfulness and controlled rage, all at the same time. Sting also appears in the film as Eddie's father, J.D. The rest of the film is slight, but entertaining because of its intricate plot, kinetic editing and imaginative camera angles. It is certainly a good effort by Mr. Ritchie. This film rates a B.
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