Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a, gritty, quirky, and hilarious comedy-of-errors crime film, focusing on the criminal underbelly of London. The film follows the action of a number of character sets in the same time period; a group of four cockney boys, a mercenary, a mafia kingpin, another mafia kingpin, a couple more faceless mafia kingpins, and a couple idiots. The film is written and directed by legendary British filmmaker, Guy Ritchie, who, without question, adds his own signature to one of the most stylised comedies around. The film jumps around between characters, as a rigged card game and the subsequent debt sparks a series of intertwining connections between a web of characters that basically ends in a tangle like you’ve never seen before.
Guy Ritchie’s style of filmmaking can best be described as pretty messed up. He’s some kind of mix between Tarrantino and Wes Anderson. Part of what makes the film so gritty and raw is Ritchie’s bleak lighting state, just a shade away from black and white, which is mechanically supposed to give a sense of the time but it manages to aid equally in the loose authenticity of the film overall. That’s another thing about it, it feels authentic and “real”, but I use the word loose for lack of a better one. It’s almost like, the way the film is shot and the way the actors, who’s performances are excellent, hold themselves kind of gives it an air of not taking itself seriously enough to be authentic, and there are moments when it even feels over the top. This tug of war between reality and sketch comedy makes it disturbingly compelling at times.
The film is written wonderfully. Very well drawn characters, but there’s a small problem there. The film’s an hour and forty-five minutes long, and there have to be at least ten characters at the forefront of the film. What I’m getting at here is that the time given for development of characters can sometimes be eaten into by the time taken to establish them (which it does remarkably well in the first ten-fifteen minutes of the film). Because of that, I can hear criticism that it’s difficult for an audience to commit to it much, there isn’t enough substance to the motivations, or the consequences, for that matter. This is a consistent weakness of Ritchie’s but he makes up for it more often than not with a phenomenally funny and stylised screenplay.
There’s no beating around the bush here. If you don’t much like British humour, you probably shouldn’t see this film. That said, if you like, love, or even are indifferent to British humour, I absolutely insist that you give this film a chance. The script positively shines with good old fashioned English wit. Layers of sarcasm, full British street slang, and accents so thick, no amount of rewinding and slow-motioning is going to help you understand. Some things are funnier left not understood.
I have to acknowledge the occasional drag on the film, it’s not the most fast paced of films you’ve ever seen and it might take a little patience for some to sit through it. That said, I think the last fifteen minutes of the film, where the real comedy of errors aspect is brought into it, adequately makes up for it, and I’d encourage anyone who does not have a strongly negative emotion conjured by the idea of British humour to watch the film.
– Aman Datta
Aman’s Score – 79/100 Aryamaan’s Score –