Thursday, September 04, 2008

Guy Ritchie retrospective - LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS

Do you remember when Britannia was cool? Do you remember when we were Common People? Do you remember when Jason Statham was just some skinny bald git? Do you remember when Guy Ritchie was the saviour of British cinema? Before the marriage to the cinematic kryptonite that is Madonna - before the kabbalistic drivel of REVOLVER - before the straight-to-video disaster of SWEPT AWAY....

LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS remains the best of Guy Ritchie's movies - full of energy, cartoonish-fun, a genuinely new visual style, and a script so tight and complex you could put a cherry on top and call it a weasel. It was a shock to the system when it first came out. It celebrated all that was great about the old Ealing comedies and caper films, but amped it up for the video-gaming age with sharp editing, pop-culture references and a Tarantino-like fondess for the absurdity of violence.

The plot is too byzantine to discuss in any detail. Suffice it to that, as with all Ritchie films, it takes a slice of London life in all its grimy glory but puts it through the filter of a cartoon-sensibility. So we have posh kids producing drugs; working class kids losing heavy money gambling; heists and counter-heists; cockney gangsters and immigrant scams. The whole things ties together with a neatness that is awe-inspiring. Instead of dumbing everything down to a sort of universally understandable but banal language and set of character types, Ritchie glories in the quirkiness of Londoners. He goes out of his way to create outlandish characters and loves their particular idioms and squalid hang-outs. He doesn't want Hollywood-handsome. He wants "Barry the Baptist" and "Nick the Greek".

Ten years later you can still stick this on the old DVD player and have a laugh and that's more than you can say about most movies. Critics and audiences weren't wrong to get excited about what this mockney was going to do next. LOCK STOCK didn't just have promise, it delivered.

LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS hit the screens in 1998 and is available on DVD.

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