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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sean Kelly

Blindspot 2014: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

lock_stock_and_two_smoking_barrelsFor this month’s blindspot, I go back to 1998 and the debut film of British director Guy Ritchie, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.  Four friends, Eddie (Nick Moran), Tom (Jason Flemyng), Bacon (Jason Statham), and Soap (Dexter Fletcher), pool together £100,000 as the buy-in for a high-stakes card game Eddie is playing against crime boss “Hatchet” Harry Lonsdale (P.H. Moriarty).  However, the game was rigged and Eddie and his friends finds themselves £500,000 in debt, with only a week to pay up.  So begins a series of events, which also involves the towering debt collector Big Chris (Vinnie Jones), a gang of thieves, a marijuana grow-op, and a pair of antique shotguns.

While he has started branching off into other genres, mostly notably the Robert Downey Jr-starring Sherlock Holmes films, Guy Ritchie will probably always be best known for his British gangster comedies, which began with this film and continued with 2000’s Snatch and 2008’s RocknRolla, with him also directing the Madonna-starring island romance Swept Away and the cerebral crime thriller Revolver.  As it stood, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels was one of only two of Ritchie’s films I had yet to see (with the other being Swept Away, which I have no intention of seeing).

It is hard to believe that more than 15 years have past since the release of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.  Probably, the first thing people will notice in this film (since he’s in the very first scene) is a certain gentleman by the name of Jason Statham, in his first film role.  It is kind of hard to believe that a guy, now known in North America as an action star, began as a wisecracking recurring actor in Ritchie’s early filmography.  In fact, I was first exposed to Statham in Snatch and I almost have to say that I preferred this stage of his career.  The film is also the acting debut for former professional footballer Vinnie Jones, who has since made a career out of tough guy roles.  Oh, and Sting (as in the singer) has a brief role in the film as Eddie’s father JD.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels has a multi-thread plot, which focuses on multiple different groups of people.  This would become a trademark of Ritchie’s somewhat, though it’s less refined here than in later films.  I admit that, on this first viewing of the film, it was hard at first to understand exactly what was going on.  This can be explained by a combination of the multiple simultaneous events, as well as the thick accents and slang (there’s even a scene in the film, which has subtitles that define the dialog).

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is undoubtedly one of the more gritty looking of Ritchie’s films, with the film having a bit of a dark sepia tint to it.  I also noticed quite a bit of grain in the image, though I’m not sure if that is the film itself or the less-than-stellar transfer of the blu-ray version of the film.  Either way, there is a vast difference between the look of this film and Snatch, which came out two years later.  I guess that’s what happens when you find success and are able to have a higher budget.

I should also make mention of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrel's producer Matthew Vaughn.  This was the second film that Vaughn produced (following 1996’s The Innocent Sleep) and Vaughn would continue producing all of Guy Ritchie’s early films, before he would make the move to directing himself with 2004’s Layer Cake, which just happens to be the only directorial effort of his I haven’t seen (a blindspot for next year perhaps).

While I will probably say I like Guy Ritchie’s later films, like Snatch and Revolver, a bit better, it was still quite interesting watching his debut after all this time and spotting all the elements that would reappear in Ritchie’s later films.

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Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).