A giddy rush and the spark that ignited director Guy Ritchie's considerably uneven career, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was a welcome blast of adrenaline-charged filmmaking imported from late Nineties Britain, a work that also jump-started the careers of Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones. A jet-black comedy laced with explosive action sequences and a cool-as-hell soundtrack, Ritchie's restless, invigorating style has been ripped off, abused and re-appeared in countless TV commercials, trailers and movies – even Ritchie's newest film, Revolver, (as of this writing, AWOL on American screens), seems to be another tired re-tread of this hyperstylized approach (I'd be happy to debate the merits of this frenetic approach vis-a-vis Snatch, arguably Ritchie's most accomplished effort to date).
The dizzyingly intricate plot follows a quartet of friends – cardshark Eddy (Nick Moran), fence Tom (Jason Flemyng), petty criminal Bacon (Jason Statham) and law-abiding chef Soap (Dexter Fletcher) – who place their life's savings in Eddy's hands as he sits down to a shady, high-stakes card game run by vicious underworld boss "Hatchet" Harry Lonsdale (P.H. Moriarty). The rigged game doesn't fall in Eddy and company's favor, leaving them a half million pounds in debt to "Hatchet" Harry, with only a week to settle up before they start losing digits and possibly much, more more. Eddy's father, JD (Sting, whose wife Trudie Styler also served as an executive producer) could end the whole mess by giving up his bar, but won't step in to help his son. Harry dispatches a pair of amateur thieves to heist some antique shotguns while Eddy and his best mates must scheme a way to save their skins amid a flurry of guns, drugs, cash and confused identities.
Wrapping itself up neatly with plenty of style and panache to spare, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a film that launched a few careers, reinvigorating the British "lad" genre and gave MTV another source to endlessly rip off and reuse – Guy Ritchie hasn't hit this peak again, save for Snatch, but with a filmmaker this kinetic and visceral, you keep hoping he'll find a script that he can infuse with his considerable and obvious talent.
This unrated, "locked 'n loaded director's cut" runs a pat two hours, up from the theatrical cut's one hour, 48 minutes and incorporates the following additions/extensions (per the Internet Movie Database; warning, some spoilers may follow for those who haven't seen the film previously): The DVD
-- As the film begins, Eddy is depicted explaining the rules of Three Card Brag to two, unseen individuals
-- A brief extension to the scene where Big Chris (Vinnie Jones) pays a visit to John (Tony McMahon), the man in the tanning bed
-- Tom, Soap and Bacon are shown walking through Samoan Jo's while Eddy begins playing high-stakes Three Card Brag with "Hatchet" Harry
-- A few minor extensions to the Three Card Brag game
-- Narrator Alan (Alan Ford) explains the back story between JD and "Hatchet" Harry
-- When Barry The Baptist (Lenny McLean) confronts the pair of amateur thieves, the dialogue is different
-- As the film winds down, Big Chris sees John, the man on the sunbed, as he walks into "Hatchet" Harry's office
-- As Eddy is interviewed by police at the film's conclusion, the narrative circles back on itself, with Eddy finishing explaining the rules of Three Card Brag
-- Immediately prior to the credit scroll, a trio of outtakes are shown: Soap telling an entire joke in the car as the lads return from the job, Barry The Baptist first reaming out then asking the amateur thieves for an ice cream, and a scene where a stranger bursts onto the set, interrupting the take.
Filmed on 16 mm and blown up to 35 mm, it's not surprising that Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels looks as rough as it does – this 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is soft and washed-out, lacking sharpness and vivid detail. Some of the grunginess was likely by design, as Ritchie's gangster films always seem to wallow in a world of drab grays, browns and greens. Still, it's hard to know if this is the best the film will ever look – I actually found the now-out-of-print 2003 Polygram disc to be sharper and slightly more saturated, although the image was much more high contrast, which revealed the flecks and other print damage more readily. Given a choice, I'd go with the discontinued 2003 edition. The Audio:
Solid but unexceptional, this Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack gets the job done and while the action sequences have a bit of life, one would hope for a remastered, more robust sonic experience, particularly considering this film places a premium upon orgiastic gunfire. Optional English, Spanish and French subtitles are included. The Extras:
Here's another instance where I'd prefer the out-of-print 2003 edition of Lock, Stock: the supplements. While the first release didn't have all that much, it's a bounty compared with what's on this unrated edition: an 11 minute, 10 second featurette, presented in anamorphic widescreen – "One Smoking Camera" – that explores the film's cinematography and the one minute, 55 second "Lock, Stock and Two F**cking Barrels," an anamorphic widescreen montage of profanity from the film. Whoopee. What's missing? The film's U.S. and UK theatrical trailers, a making-of featurette, the Cockney slang dictionary and bios for cast and crew. Neither of the bonus features here are really worth losing the prior disc if you have it already. Final Thoughts:
Wrapping itself up neatly with plenty of style and panache to spare, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a film that launched a few careers, reinvigorating the British "lad" genre and gave MTV another source to endlessly rip off and reuse – Guy Ritchie hasn't hit this peak again, save for Snatch, but with a filmmaker this kinetic and visceral, you keep hoping he'll find a script that he can infuse with his considerable and obvious talent. This "locked 'n loaded director's cut" adds negligible value to an already exceptional film and the supplements are a waste of time. As for me, I'll be keeping my now out-of-print 2003 Polygram disc and chucking this one in the discard pile. A rental, at best.