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Film Contemplation : Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) Film Review

This account is created for reflecting on timeless classics along with some flawed ones. We will discuss movies and everything around it.

'And certainly not when you got Liberia's deficit in your sky rocket'

Stylish. cerebral. unpredictable. boisterous. At the time of its release, Lock, Stock, and two smoking barrels (1998) was characterized using these attributes and twenty-two years later it still remains one for the ages. Guy Ritchie's richly imaginative screenplay is indefatigable and hilarious till the end. Wait. Not even at the end. Once the end credits roll out, chances are you'll still end up yearning for another go.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) film poster

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) film poster

Right from the first frame with debutant Jason Stathom's street smart monologue, you are pulled in by the ferocious energy towards the low-grade London street boys. The palette used here is almost orangish, yellow, brown and grey which admittedly would have weighed down most of the films but here doesn't matter much. The central characters are introduced in their own quirky way and the ingenious and priceless dialogues remind you a bit of both Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. There's a crackerjack discourse in particular, about an unscrupulous way of dealing with two different banks to earn quick cash. This scene doesn't have any particular prominence in the scheme of things, but serves to highlight Ritchie's slick inference. That is in a way, similar to the tips scene in Reservoir Dogs (1992), the Superman scene in Kill Bill vol. 2 (2004) and card name game scene in Inglourious Basterds (2009) for Tarantino. Few films manage to make so many characters interesting and the list here is long. Eddie, Tom, Soap, Bacon, Winston, Big Chris, little Chris, 'Hatchet' Harry Lonsdale, Rory Breaker, Nick 'the Greek', Barry 'the Baptist', Dog, Plank, Gary, Dean. Even the gang of weed growers and Paul's brief parts are memorable. And background score also has an important role to play in the film, at times taking the identity of a whole new character.

Every following work of Ritchie will be burdened by comparison to this magnum opus.

Lock, Stock, and two Smoking barrels begins with Eddie's big upcoming cards game with the infamous Hatchet Harry. The minimum dough required for a seat at the table is 100,000 Pounds which is contributed by Eddie, Tom, Soap and Bacon. The risk of losing all this money is mitigated by Ed's immaculate sense of reading everyone's reactions at the game. Plus, as the narrator tells us, people react a lot where money is involved. Harry is willing to accept Ed's offer for a game due to his enamour for Ed's father, JD's bar. The second storyline focuses on Harry's attempts at acquiring two prized guns without paying for it. So Barry is tasked with hiring efficient thiefs to carry out this deed. In another hilarious scene, Barry hires Gary and Dean but the contempt that each party holds for the other one is conspicuous.

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The third one includes a hippie group of weed growers who are sitting on a pile of cash and hash. Their boss is the uncanny Rory Breaker who has a peerless style of working. Their blissful existence is threatened by Dog and his group. Dog and co. are also the despised neighbours of Bacon and Ed. Added to all this are Big Chris and his son, little Chris, and Nick the bubble. These two perform as fluid labour that ensures tasks or other requirements are carried out. Before reaching the halfway mark all these storylines overlap culminating in one of the most unpredictable narratives.

Scene from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

Scene from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

Coherence within group or gang plays a pivotal role in the film. Since most of the happenings relies on more than a bit of pure luck, the interplay amongst members assumes prominent importance to get through the arduous task. On this scale, Dog's gang performs worse as he is ready to rip them off the second things start falling apart. Harry's group is the most collected, in a way symbolizing his leadership which rests on his sense of assuredness. It does help that they are the ones pointing guns at other people through their power and fear mongering and not the other way around. Winston's group suffers from lack of seriousness and failure in carrying out his requests. These failings also highlight Winston's shortcomings as a leader. Eddie and co., though constantly bickering, are thick as brothers and are supportive of each other to get out their situation. Rory dominates his group and doesn't have any other decision maker in their rank. Gary and Dean are buddies but are comically foolish enough to misunderstand antiques for old worn furniture.

Debutante director Guy Ritchie clearly has a distinct voice and is confident in his abilities. Every following work of his will be burdened by comparison to this magnum opus. You do sense a bit of Tarantino influence here though and no one is complaining. He knows how and where to use the music for maximum effect and hits the bullseye with his dialogues. It may sound a bit overzealous, but the dialogues written here are one of the finest of all time. With the benefit of hindsight it is difficult to gulp the fact that the same man went on to direct King Arthur : Legend of the Sword (2017) and Aladdin (2019). While the former atleast shows flashes of his brilliance, the latter is downright sub-par even by the recent tentpole standards

Few films manage to make so many characters interesting and the list here is long.

Performance wise, everyone brings their A-game and this is one of the rare large ensemble cast where no one disappoints. So long as a character is on-screen he gives the impression of being the best actor in the film. A few section of the audience, however, may get turned off by the lack of a prominent female character in the film.

Moving at breakneck speed throughout it's 107 minutes running time, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) provides scene after scene of guffawing brilliance. A paramount question for Ritchie would be how did he conceive the picture. Did he first develop the idea of a few plans going haywire rising to a crescendo or first having an idea of the ending and developing backwards. It's astute direction, elegant writing and dazzling music aid it's place among the finest works in the history of cinema.

A still from the picture

A still from the picture

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