Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

“Err, bad breath, colorful language, feather duster. What do you think they’re gonna be armed with? GUNS, you tit!”

It’s said that there’s no honor among thieves, and I can’t think of any better example of this in action than British crime film Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. This is the directorial debut of Guy Ritchie (Snatch, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and it stars Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, and Nick Moran. This is a story from the criminal underground of London, and it’s got lots of British charm and sensibility that makes this stand out from the crowded genre of American crime films. The script is also exceptionally smart, especially for a first feature film from the writer/director. If you like crime films but want something delightfully different, this will probably fit the bill.

The film opens with four friends pooling together 100,000 pounds to take part in a high-stakes poker game with some less respectable characters. Not only do they lose their money—they end up 500,000 pounds in debt, and have one week to come up with the money before they start losing fingers. They catch word of some common thugs planning to rob a local drug distributor, and immediately make plans to rob the thugs after the initial robbery. Paths cross with some other criminals, and things end up way, way out of their control.

Well, fucking shoot ’em back!

This film caught me by surprise. In the beginning, things seem to be happening haphazardly, with disparate pieces moving independently and, at times, slowly. This all comes together in the brilliant finale of the film. There is nothing random or careless about this plot—it’s a very tight script, and it gets better and better as it goes on. Seeing how perfectly things came together in the end almost made me start it over as soon as it ended, the same way you want to re-watch a movie with a huge plot twist to see how it was foreshadowed. There’s not a piece out of place. Every scene is necessary here, and it all works.

Big Chris brandishes two rifles in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
In what’s already a pretty cool movie, Big Chris delivered a big dose of British badass flair and was without a doubt the coolest character present.

As a crime film, this has its share of dark and serious moments, but there are also some very funny moments in this film. Most of the characters are hilariously incompetent in one way or another (though not absurdly so), and watching them struggle to contain the growing disaster of a situation is really entertaining. Really, this is a winsome film with a lot of charm, despite some graphic violence and less than noble characters. All of the characters are great, but the character of Big Chris, which was the film acting debut of Vinnie Jones, was exceptionally well done and acted. And, for a film about four bumbling British blokes in way over their heads in the London criminal underground, this movie has about the best ending I can think of.

Guy Ritchie knocked it out of the park with Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, his first feature film as a writer and director. His second film, Snatch, got a bigger budget and had a little more polish, but this film’s got heart and an exceptionally smart script. This is a very entertaining film and there’s a lot to love here. If you’re not used to hearing British accents, you might want to watch it with subtitles—the dialogue goes by pretty quickly. If you’re a fan of quirky British dark comedies or crime films in general, you will probably love this movie.

View my complete list of classic, essential, or just plain good movies!

Runtime: 2:00
Director: Guy Ritchie
Year: 1998
Genres: comedy, crime, indie
Rating: R

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