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Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
Before he started directing movies on his own, including Layer Cake, Matthew Vaughn was close friends with Guy Ritchie (RocknRolla), and the two of them collaborated, with Vaughn producing several of Ritchie's films. They helped revive the British gangster film and provided it with critical recognition in the late '90s. In fact, before Ritchie's wife Madonna was wearing promotional shirts for his second film Snatch. in 2000, his first film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, was the one people were raving about.
Ritchie wrote and directed this film, which follows Tom (Jason Flemyng, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), a fence for stolen goods. Soap (Dexter Fletcher, Doom) works as a chef and knows about his friends' criminal lives, and he does not want to be caught up in that aspect of their lives. Eddie (Nick Moran, Prisoners of the Sun) and Bacon (Jason Statham, (Crank 2) are part of the group as well. Bacon is the minor hood, and Eddie is the expert card player. When Eddie loses his friends' money at a high-stakes poker contest at the hands of a man named "Hatchet" Harry (P.H. Moriarity, Patriot Games), they have to scramble to get the money and pay him. They don't risk Harry putting a guy named "Big" Chris (Vinnie Jones, Year One) on their heels.
I should note that this is hardly the entire story; there are many different components, including a small man with a large afro named Rory Breaker (Vas Blackwood, Mean Machine) who wants his stolen marijuana back. Harry's second in command is Barry the Baptist, who works to steal two vintage rifles for his boss in a way that almost drives him crazy. Then you have Eddie's father JD (Sting. Yes, THAT Sting), who is forced to choose between his bar and his son when in the position to pay Harry for his son's debts.
It's hard to discuss this film without mentioning the films Ritchie's made since, in the sense that there's not been too much of a divergence in material, except for some minor changes to style in the attempt to make each film different. Honestly, if RocknRolla and Snatch. look much different than Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels it's by design and almost lazy decision making. That said, looking at this film for the first time in a long time, it's nice to see the technique and great dialogue all over again.
Along those same lines, seeing many of these faces who would go on to develop their own names, either in other Ritchie films (note Alan Ford in this film before he turned into Brick Top for Snatch.) or in their own right, is a treat to see. However, when it comes to the biggest test of all, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels fails to stand up to the test of time. There are a couple of small wrinkles of change compared to other Ritchie films, but at this point, he's only trying to make that particular wheel run better; it's not like he invented it. Both the antagonist and protagonist stumble into a variety of good and bad circumstances; the only thing left to see is just how it shakes out. At least the characters are more raw and authentic then in Ritchie's latter films, so he's got that going for him, which is nice.
That authenticity does not carry Ritchie through the film unscathed though, and ultimately, the viewer is left yearning for other, heartier fare. To some degree, Vaughn has met Ritchie in this regard with Layer Cake and perhaps surpassed him with subsequent films. Still, seeing them both while they were hungry is quite a sight, despite what either has done since.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen in 1080p high definition, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels has had some color adjustment done in post-production to convey a brownish image. That carries over well on Blu-ray, with image detail noticeable in quite a few scenes, though there's not a lot of background depth to provide any multidimensional look. Film grain is present throughout the images, but any excessive (or "distracting") grain I'll chalk up to the filmmakers' intent. In summary, the film looks good but not great on Blu-ray.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack doesn't get the workout I'd expect from a Guy Ritchie film, but it manages to stretch its legs from time to time. During the pre-poker shot where a man runs out of the bar next-door with his torso on fire, sound effects from right to left channels pan effectively without distortion issues. Like other Ritchie films, the use of music is prevalent, and musicians from James Brown to Iggy and the Stooges are replicated clearly. Gunfire packs a bit of low-end punch, though not quite enough to get the subwoofer involved, and dialogue requires minimal compensation from the user. All in all, it sounds as good as it looks.
Meh, "One Smoking Camera" (11:10) features interviews that cover the shot intent and includes the breakdown of some shots, not to mention coverage on the some of the visual effects. It's brief, but the technical information is cool. "Lock, Stock and Two F**king Barrels" (1:55) is a reel of F bombs uttered by the film's cast of characters. Those are the only two things on this BD-Live and D-Box enabled BD-50.
A quick note: the version of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels on this Blu-ray is the 108-minute theatrical cut, not the 120-minute Director's Cut. And yet the Director's Cut extras are on this disc. What gives, Universal?
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a nice stroll down memory lane from two British directors that have become recognized and/or respected, depending onto whom you want to throw the label. Technically, the disc is sound but is weak in supplements, all the more so considering there's no option to select a Director's Cut. Unless you're a hardcore fan of this film, I'd recommend passing.