The 90s cult classic is the proponent of the excellence of British dark comedy crime dramas
Last Updated: 08.20 AM, Aug 02, 2022
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The film that brought the attention of the global audience to Guy Ritchie is undoubtedly Guy Ritchie’s 1998 British black comedy crime drama, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. It also introduced the world to two former British athletes — the former Premier League footballer Vinnie Jones, and British Olympic swimmer Jason Statham. While Jones has gone on to become a respectable actor both in Britain and Hollywood, Statham has become a blockbuster star. It is also quite probable that many would find it hard to fathom that Statham got his breakthrough from a British indie project, let alone the fact that he was Olympian.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels are identical to several Ritchie films that followed it such as Snatch and RockNRolla. The tropes of conmen and gangsters being conned, an antique or priceless artefact that becomes the centre of the narrative, and the morally grey protagonists. For instance, the Russian painting in RockNRolla caused envy and misery for many, whereas the antique double barrels in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels create chaos resulting in gunfights and gruesome murders. The unique set pieces and characters are not often fleshed out, with an air of mystery surrounding them and their backstory. This is in fact Ritchie’s deliberate plot device to add intrigue and to keep the audience guessing as to what the plot has in store for these characters.
While most films would suffer as a result of underdeveloped characters, Ritchie has found the right formula to use this to his advantage in his storytelling. This template is prominent in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The characters are given brief expositions by a narrator within the opening minutes of the runtime to establish their arcs and for the overall narrative. In Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels the protagonists are hustlers in search of a big score. And the most obvious avenue available to them is to win a high-stakes poker game hosted by a gangster. Their Rainman-esque’ poker genius Eddy (Nick Moran) is their best bet to win half-a-million pounds, but as one would expect, the gangster cheats and the gang ends up owing him £500,0000.
The gangster in question, Hatchet Harry (P H Moriarty), gives them a week’s time to find the money or face dire consequences. What ensues is a mad dash to procure the cash before Harry sends in his henchman Big Chris (Vinnie Jones) to break their bones or find other means to forcefully get the money. Eddy and his gang, which comprises Tom, Soap, and Bacon, are presented with the opportunity of stealing from another gang who themselves plan to raid a few drug dealers.
All of the various branching plotlines, from the antique guns, the armed heists, and the various gangsters are connected in some way and culminate in a wild ‘shoot em’ up’ in the third act. There is palpable action, plenty of dark humour, and intrigue in this final act. Ritchie’s ingenuity is on full display as the runtime breezes past thanks to its engrossing screenplay and fascinating characters. The visual tone of the film reflects the sheer lack of righteous characters and the morally grey premise of the storyline. The gunfights and the action sequences are well-executed, and each twist and turn in the narrative is a by-product of each character stumbling onto something rather than a result of a plan of action undertaken to get the job done.
While the film does incorporate several signature Ritchie tropes, it does have its own unique identity and is most definitely a must-watch.
You can watch Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels here