Thursday, 20 August 2015

"Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," Guy Ritchie, Film Review

"Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," Guy Ritchie, Film Review

Lock, Stock was a tough film to score.  The first time I watched it I chickened out of scoring it so now I've had to watch it again.  It's undeniably entertaining, a lot of effort has gone into it, it has memorable characters, and it's occasionally funny.  An 8/10 generally means that I would definitely want to watch it again.  I'm not sure that's true here – so the top mark it could get would be 7/10.  But then it's got some really awful dialogue, which takes it down to say a 5/10 and it has Sting playing a bar owner, which loses it another mark to give 4/10.  So… it seems a little harsh, 4/10, but I'm struggling to give it any more.  Perhaps if you hate Sting less than I do, you'd give it a 5/10.


Lock, Stock has not one, not two or three, but four likeable everyman leads.  Their grim charm is a big part of the film's success.  And then there are a bunch of villains, who all have their memorable traits.  The two non-actors, Sting and Vinnie Jones have clearly been heavily directed, with lighting and camera angles standing in for their (excusable) total lack of acting ability.

So what about the dialogue?  Someone's gone to quite a bit of effort with the dialogue.  There are attempts at different registers, notably with the public schoolboy dope growers, who say things like 'I believe they are in deadly earnest.'  Then there are the two hapless Scousers, who give as good as they get to the southerners and stick up for each other in an endearing way.  They come out with some true Scouse lines at times such as 'you fucking shithouse' and 'going to rob some guns'.  Then there are passages of slang so heavy they are subtitled for comic effect.  So what's not to like?  The problem is with the heroes' and the villains' dialogue.  No matter how rough the character, every line they say is perfectly, logically formed.  Even well educated people in real life don't speak like that.  Hearing it coming from these lowlifes is simply ridiculous and it negates whatever positive impact might have come from careful use of slang etc.

Review continues below...

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It’s all quite nicely stitched together.  For example, we see Nick the Greek  being given a horrible novelty phone at the beginning, and towards the end there he is, using it, complete with its novelty ringtone.

The pathetic posh boys running the drug growing enterprise provide quite a few laughs.  'What are you doing?' says the local geezer who's betrayed them – as one of the lads faints with fear in his arms.

There are hardly any women in the film.  It's very much a blokey enterprise.  I suppose it's better than having a few dolly-birds thrown in, which is what the many rip-offs of Lock, Stock generally do.

'It's been emotional,' says Vinnie at the end, in a desperate attempt to articulate his response to the whole affair.  Well, some stuff certainly happened.  Not sure what the point of it all was, though.

Personal Score: 4/10

This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.

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