×

Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels

With visual style to spare, and a cast and plot you need a computer to keep track of, British writer-director Guy Ritchie's first feature, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," lacks nothing in energy.

With:
Tom - Jason Flemyng Soap - Dexter Fletcher Eddy - Nick Moran Bacon - Jason Statham Winston - Steven Mackintosh Big Chris - Vinnie Jones J.D - Sting Barry the Baptist - Lenny McLean Hatchet Harry - P.H. Moriarty Plank - Steve Sweeney Dog - Frank Harper Nick the Greek - Stephen Marcus Little Chris - Peter McNicholl Rory Breaker - Vas Blackwood Dean - Jake Abraham Lenny - Stephen Callender-Ferrier Gloria - Suzy Ratner

With visual style to spare, and a cast and plot you need a computer to keep track of, British writer-director Guy Ritchie’s first feature, “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” lacks nothing in energy. This London crime-caper dramedy recalls Danny Boyle’s debut, “Shallow Grave,” in its verve, but is set in a very different, more localized milieu peopled by brutes and half-wits speaking in a Cockney version of Damon Runyonese. It falls, however, some way short of its script ambitions, relying increasingly on plot twists and outre violence to sustain pacing and interest. Business on home turf looks more likely to be warm than blazing, with little in the very male-centered movie to appeal to female auds. It’s a pranky, often entertaining but not very pleasant night out at the movies.

The film is an independently produced pickup by Polygram — after most other U.K. distribs turned it down — and is getting a big ad push in Blighty, where it opens Friday following its Aug. 23 world preem at the Edinburgh fest.

Cockney dialogue presents no major problems for North Americans, though it requires some attentiveness. (One scene, in Cockney rhyming slang, is subtitled for comic effect.) On an international level, the film falls more into the category of specialized fare than mainstream commercial, and may possibly have missed the boys-with-guns boat, even in Europe.

Set in a grubby, working-class armpit of London’s East End, the complex story centers on four layabouts who cook up a scheme to make some big money by having one of them, cardsharp Eddy (Nick Moran), enter a card game with gangster and porn king Hatchet Harry (P.H. Moriarty).

Eddy’s pals are flatmate Bacon (Jason Statham), wheeler-dealer Tom (Jason Flemyng) and the more levelheaded Soap (Dexter Fletcher), who actually has a job as a chef. The quartet scrabble together £100,000 ($160,000) to get Eddy in on the card game.

But things go drastically wrong during the game — staged in a boxing ring and shot with virtuoso, in-your-face camerawork — and Eddy loses his bundle and ends up owing Harry half a million pounds instead, with a week’s grace before his limbs get broken. Harry’s true goal, however, is to take over a bar run by his archenemy, J.D. (Sting), who’s Eddy’s dad.

Hereon, the plot spirals off in a dizzying number of directions. Desperate to raise some quick cash to pay off Harry, Eddy happens to overhear a plan by some thuggish neighbors (Frank Harper, Steve Sweeney) to rob a marijuana factory run by Winston (Steven Mackintosh) and some louche, upper-class friends.

Eddy & Co. get there first and, after some heavy gunfire, make off with Winston’s cash and plants. The only problem is that they have accidentally come into possession of some antique guns highly desired by Hatchet Harry, whose bag man, Big Chris (British soccer bad boy Vinnie Jones), takes no prisoners. That’s just the first hour or so.

Though Ritchie’s screenplay scores a 10 for sheer complexity and cleverness, it rates much lower down the scale for comprehensibility and audience involvement. For a start, there are simply too many characters — confusingly introduced in the early stages — for the viewer to root for, even if they were likable in the first place.

Ritchie’s snazzy technique, and a busy music track of songs (plus Morricone-ish music by David Hughes and John Murphy), papers over this weakness for a while; but when the action pauses and character and dialogue are meant to take over, the movie becomes a progressively cold construct. The attempt at ironic, Runyonesque humor and phrasing is occasionally successful but does not permeate the script.

Of the central quartet, Flemyng makes the most impact as the red-haired, balding Tom, though he’s overshadowed by the colorful, more brutish characters in the huge cast, such as Moriarty’s Harry, Lenny McLean as Harry’s muscle and, especially, Jones as Big Chris, who comes into his own in the latter stages. As Eddy’s father, Sting is in for only a couple of scenes.

Pic has an overall ochrish look that fits the mood, and the mostly tawdry sets by p.d.s Iain Andrews and Eve Mavrakis convincingly paint a corner of London’s East End where Richard Burton would have felt at home in “Villain.”

Popular on Variety

Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels

Production: A Polygram Filmed Entertainment release (in U.K.) of a Steve Tisch Co./SKA Films presentation. Produced by Matthew Vaughan. Executive producers, Steve Tisch, Peter Morton, Angad Paul, Stephen Marks, Trudie Styler. Co-producer, Georgia Masters. Directed, written by Guy Ritchie.

With: Tom - Jason Flemyng Soap - Dexter Fletcher Eddy - Nick Moran Bacon - Jason Statham Winston - Steven Mackintosh Big Chris - Vinnie Jones J.D - Sting Barry the Baptist - Lenny McLean Hatchet Harry - P.H. Moriarty Plank - Steve Sweeney Dog - Frank Harper Nick the Greek - Stephen Marcus Little Chris - Peter McNicholl Rory Breaker - Vas Blackwood Dean - Jake Abraham Lenny - Stephen Callender-Ferrier Gloria - Suzy RatnerCamera (color), Tim Maurice-Jones; editor, Niven Howie; original music, David A. Hughes, John Murphy; music supervisors, Nicola Fletcher, Cool Music Ltd.; production designers, Iain Andrews, Eve Mavrakis; costume designer, Stephanie Collie; sound (Dolby Digital), Simon (Purple) Hayes; sound designer, Matthew Collinge; stunt coordinator, Glenn Marks; line producer, Ronaldo Vasconcellos; associate producers, Sebastian Pearson, Jan Roldanus; assistant director, David (Disco) Reid; casting, Celesta Fox. Reviewed at BAFTA preview theater, London, July 2, 1998. (In Edinburgh Film Festival -- Focus on British Cinema.) Running time: 105 MIN.

More Film

  • Empty movie theater

    Theater Owners Create $2.4 Million Fund for Cinema Workers

    The National Association of Theatre Owners and the Pioneers Assistance Fund have created an initial $2.4 million fund to provide financial assistance to movie theater employees who need help due to the coronavirus pandemic. The organizations said Monday that the first part of the initiative is a grant program that will provide a stipend to [...]

  • Bob Chapek Bob Iger Disney

    Bob Iger to Give Up Salary, Other Senior Disney Executives to Take Pay Cuts

    Disney has joined the list of companies implementing sizable pay cuts for senior executives amid the upheaval caused by the coronavirus crisis. Bob Iger, who shifted from chairman-CEO to executive chairman last month, has opted to forgo his salary for the year. Bob Chapek, who succeeded Iger as CEO, has taken a 50% pay cut. [...]

  • Sundance Horror Movie 'Relic' Picked Up

    Sundance Horror Movie 'Relic,' Starring Emily Mortimer, Picked Up By Film Constellation

    London-based production, finance and sales company Film Constellation has boarded the critically-lauded “Relic,” the debut feature from Natalie Erika James. The film, which stars Emily Mortimer (“Shutter Island”), Robyn Nevin (“The Matrix Trilogy”) and Bella Heathcote (“The Neon Demon”), had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in the Midnight section. The film, which [...]

  • Judy Movie 2019 renee zellweger

    Korea Box Office: ‘Judy’ Debuts on Top as Cinemas Slump to Historic Lows

    The South Korean box office, which has been widely affected by coronavirus and has fallen to historic lows, was further hit by leading exhibitor CJ-CGV’s recent decision to shut 35 complexes nationwide, and to reduce screenings at those theaters remaining in operation. Opening on Wednesday (Mar. 25), Oscar-winning drama “Judy” debuted on top of the [...]

  • 'Elephant' Review: Less Majestic Than the

    'Elephant,' Narrated by Meghan Markle: Film Review

    Of all the members of the animal kingdom we think of as akin to humans — chimps, dolphins, whales, perhaps (if we’re being honest about it) our dogs — elephants may be the most movingly and preternaturally aware. Because you can see how intelligent they are. You see it in a chimp’s face, too, of [...]

  • Ken Shimura

    Japanese Comedian Ken Shimura Dies of Coronavirus at 70

    Ken Shimura, a comedian who was a fixture on Japanese television for decades, died on Sunday evening from the coronavirus, the Japanese media reported Monday. He was 70, and immediately before his illness had been set for his first starring role in a feature film. Shimura entered a Tokyo hospital on March 20 with fever [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content