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LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS
Locked n' Loaded Director's Cut

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Nick Moran, Jason Statham, Steven Mackintosh, Vinnie Jones, Sting
Director: Guy Ritchie
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 120 Minutes
Release Date: October 3, 2006

“A minute ago this was the safest job in the world. Now it's turning into a bad day in Bosnia.”

Film ***1/2

If you take Quentin Tarantino and mix in a little English flavor, you’d end up with an equally inventive filmmaker named Guy Ritchie. Just like QT accomplished with Reservoir Dogs, Ritchie delivered quite an impressive impact with his first film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The film was definitive proof that the influence of Tarantino had not only effected American cinema, but that of the overseas independent market. But Ritchie shouldn’t be labeled as a Tarantino wannabe, as he carries a filmmaking style all of his own.

The film carries the trademark film qualities pioneered by films such as Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs; violence mixed with insightfully witty humor centering around a group of underworld lowlives. If one is quick to label this the Pulp Fiction of Great Britain, they should be cautious. Ritchie’s film is told in the standard narrative method, though the plot is one of the most extensively complex ones ever written, and I’m very certain that the film would be even more complicated had the non-chronological format been applied.

The plot centers around a young Brit named Eddy (Nick Moran), a hotshot poker player. Though he’s admitted to giving up gambling to his father, JD (Sting), Eddy is actually about to take part in the biggest poker challenge of his life. His friends have scrapped together their individual life savings and place it in Eddy’s hands in the hopes of scoring a big payback in the high stakes game run by underworld boss “Hatchet” Harry (P.H. Moriarty).

The game, which turns out to be a rigged one, lands Eddy in an enormous amount of debt. He and his friends are now in Harry’s pocket for half a million pounds. One option would be for Eddy’s father to sell his pub, but he won’t step in to help on account that Eddy lied about breaking his gambling habit. It would only take a bizarre act of fate to save Eddy and his pals.

And wouldn’t you know it…that’s exactly what happens.

It turns out, Eddy eavesdrops on his neighbor and discovers a plot to rob a rich drug dealer. It also turns out that at the same time,” Hatchet” Harry has ordered two dimwitted thieves to heist two priceless antique shotguns. Through an act of sheer luck, Eddy and his friends come into possession of both the stolen drug money and the heisted guns. Sounds like their troubles are over…

But nothing could be further from the truth. Before long, the pressuring debt-collector is the least of their worries. Numerous other individuals get caught up in the mix, including some public school "chemists", a psychotic hash-baron, a drug kingpin, a lethal enforcer of “Hatchet” Harry’s named Big Chris and a large arsenal of guns and knives. It goes without saying that an extreme level of bloodshed is to be expected.

And although the film didn’t really jump start many big careers for the then unknown cast, two actors have gone on to bigger and better things. That was very much the case with Jason Statham, who plays one of Eddy’s associates, Bacon. The charismatic Statham has now become a recognizable face thanks to his follow up roles in The Italian Job, Crank  and The Transporter franchise. And Vinnie Jones, who plays Big Chris, has made his presence felt in such films as Gone in 60 Seconds, Swordfish and most recently as Juggernaut in X-Men: The Last Stand.

As for Ritchie, he managed to make a follow up film that was even greater, 2000’s Snatch. Since then, his highly publicized marriage to Madonna seems to have overshadowed his filmmaking. And after the disaster of his last film, the super awful Swept Away which he should’ve never stepped anywhere near, let’s hope that Mr. Ritchie returns to his roots and makes another kick ass ride of a film.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels remains a fun, witty and violent trip through London’s underground. Let’s face it, before then England had never looked more gangsta. Lock, load and enjoy!

Video **

I remember seeing the film when it first hit DVD a mere seven years ago and wondered if the handlers of the video performance messed up the presentation. Now after seeing it on this new released edition, it’s clearly the film stock where the problems lay. Filmed in a most independent way (on 16mm and blown up to 35mm), the given film qualities simply can’t add up to a masterful presentation. Though there are no horrific video flaws in the anamorphic picture, far too many scenes appear soft and washed out. It doesn’t take much out of the enjoyment of the film, but all I can say is don’t expect a remarkable look.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 mix gets the senses jolting, thanks to a red hot soundtrack, consisting of an original lineup knockout soul classics and rock joints (Ricthie, like Tarantino, knows how to assemble a unique music lineup. That, along with the explosive violence that accompanies the last half of the film adds up to an outstanding listen. Dialogue is nice and clear as well, but don’t be surprised if you have to switch on your subtitles to understand some it. What can I say? Not all of us are schooled in Cockney.

Features *1/2

I felt gun-downed when I saw the nearly empty barrel on this new “Locked ‘N Loaded Directors Cut” release. All that is included is a brief featurette titled “One Smoking Camera” and a minute and a half compilation of all the F-bombs used in the film. Would’ve liked to have seen a commentary track, as well as so much more, included.

Summary:

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels delivers enough gun blazing, finger chopping, knife throwing, and additional craziness for two movies, if not more than that. Credit must go Guy Ritchie’s way for bringing pulp cinema to the British film market and incorporating something different than the countless Tarantino imitators.

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