Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

Rated 18
Amazon Prime
Spoiler Free

If you put a gun to my head and said choose between classic British directorial debuts Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Shaun of the Dead, easy: I’d choose Lock, Stock. If you put a gun to my head and demanded I choose between Shaun of the Dead* and the gun, I’d check the gun was fully loaded before choosing that sweet, sweet lead.

Crime caper Lock, Stock set the scene for its writer and director Guy Ritchie’s successes, and while he’s churned out some stinkers you can’t knock someone for trying different things. As lean as Lenny McLean was mean, there’s barely a wasted second in its hilarious heist to and fro, as a useless bunch of con-artists aim to recoup a debt owed to London’s underworld via London’s underworld.

I was 15 when Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was released in cinemas and given I got ID’d for booze recently at 39, as you can imagine I had to wait for it to be released on VHS before seeing it. Even then I had to get my Dad to rent it for me at Blockbuster, while my mum wasn’t at home to judge.

Much like the lovable crooks at the centre of the film do, Spitalfields Market still sold goods “off the back of a lorry” for knockdown prices when I first went. The double bluff was you weren’t even  getting what you paid for (stolen goods). Everything was borrowed, including the truth- my Dad taught me that about it all. It was gloriously, opulently dodgy to watch those street auctions. Nowadays Spitalfields has a Hawksmoor restaurant, and I was too young to carry a “brand new TV” home anyway. Sometimes change is good, and memories are fun.

As films go Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is astronomically well written. Almost every line is a classic, quotably excellent bon mot. How Guy Ritchie managed to stitch an actual story together with all the off the wall funny is a feat; to do it in his debut is a Tarantino-esq high bar. The soundtrack is nothing short of perfect, as eclectic as the film’s cast. I had the cassette in my Walkman for months.

Guy Ritchie became the UK’s enfant terrible following Lock, Stock’s success, marrying Madonna and generally hanging around with wealthy reprobates. Despite not exactly being from an impoverished and unprivileged background, and with an apprenticeship in music videos, his visual and verbal flair is undeniable. Ritchie can be credited (or accused depending on your perspective) with launching Jason Statham’s career as The Stath. 

An iconic, entertaining, ensemble packed with fun twists and turns. Unless you’re a Nun you will like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Bedsit it?

Stylish British eccentricity and humour which carried worldwide like Peaky Blinders did decades later, Lock, Stock remains silly, sharp and slick. 9/10

*Happy 30th Birthday Phoebe! Sorry, there was no way I was reviewing a film I don't like (Shaun of the Dead) for your birthday.


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