‘Lock, Stock’ Aims, Hits Targets of Wicked Fun


“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” is dark, dangerous and a great deal of wicked, amoral fun. A film that manages to be as clever, playful and mock violent as its title, “Lock, Stock” was a major hit in its native Britain and its cheeky tone, simultaneously calculated and off the cuff, is as hip as anyone could want.

The feature debut of 30-year-old writer-director Guy Ritchie (currently so esteemed in Hollywood that Sony backed his next picture, “Diamonds,” without reading a finished script), “Lock, Stock” does several things well, starting with presenting a clever plot delirious enough to tempt viewers to diagram its farcical intricacies.

Focusing on a quartet of young Londoners who get in over their heads with the local underworld and have to contend with a contingent of knuckle-headed desperadoes, “Lock, Stock” enjoys nothing more than being unexpected. Complications bounce off each other like bumper cars in a fun house as the film intercuts the exploits of half a dozen distinct groupings of incorrigible and amusing East End rogues.


Ritchie concocted this story, and he manages to tell it with considerable cinematic energy, making good use of an eclectic soundtrack and tossing in a variety of enlivening visual tricks he mastered while making commercials and music videos.

Though head-banging is prevalent in this world and all its characters can be casually brutal when the mood strikes them, Ritchie often (but not always) shies away from showing excessive violence, giving us an unmistakable taste but leaving the most graphic portions safely off-screen.

Helping leaven the carnage is “Lock, Stock’s” lively and often unexpected sense of humor. With lines like “That wad’s like Liberia’s deficit,” “This is turning into a bad day in Bosnia” and “It’s kosher as Christmas,” the deadpan Britspeak dialogue is wised up and sarcastic. In this world, if you don’t have an attitude, comic or otherwise, you simply don’t survive.

Ritchie was particularly concerned in how he cast “Lock, Stock,” wanting to ensure that his actors had what he calls criminal credibility, that they looked as tough as they talked. So the key role of Barry the Baptist (so named because he next to drowns people to make them talk) went to Lenny McLean, a Cockney former bare-knuckle boxing champion, and debt collector Big Chris was played by Vinnie Jones, an ex-soccer star known for being a disciplinary problem.

Both of these men work for Hatchet Harry (P.J. Moriarty, who played Razors in “The Long Good Friday”), one of the criminal pillars of the East End, someone equally at home selling sex toys or using them to beat people to death.

Harry also runs a very high stakes card game where players need 100,000 pounds to pull up a chair. Handsome Eddie (Nick Moran), a wizard with cards “since he could lift them,” wants in, and he gets three pals to match his 25,000-pound stake. They would be the entrepreneurial Tom (Jason Flemyng), the muscular Bacon (Jason Statham) and Soap (Dexter Fletcher), so named because he’s the only one of the quartet who cares about keeping his hands at least metaphorically clean.


“Lock, Stock” wouldn’t be much of a movie if everything worked as these lads planned. After a number of dizzying twists, they end up having only a few days to come up with half a million pounds or else Barry will go after their fingers with one of Harry’s hatchets while casting covetous eyes at the bar owned by Eddie’s dad, JD (Sting).

Meanwhile, Barry has hired a pair of lunatic Liverpool natives (identifiable by their accents) to burglarize a stately home that has a pair of antique shotguns Harry’s taken a fancy to, shotguns that amusingly figure in the plot again and again. Also part of the criminal stew are a quartet of upper-class toffs who grow marijuana for profit but are too stoned to close their security gate, the ruthless Dog (Frank Harper) and his band of reprobates, and drug kingpin Rory Breaker (Vas Blackwood), respectfully described as “a psychotic black dwarf with an afro.”

Though Eddie apparently had a girlfriend in an earlier cut, “Lock, Stock” as it now stands is a completely masculine vision that’s brash enough to orchestrate a complex criminal shootout to Mikis Theodorakis’ classic dance music from “Zorba the Greek.” Described by a participant as “a farce with action,” this is one film that’s not over until it’s over, and maybe not even then.

* MPAA rating: R, for strong violence, pervasive language, sexuality and drug content. Times guidelines: Though strong, the violence doesn’t cross the line into excessive.

‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’

Jason Flemyng: Tom

Dexter Fletcher: Soap

Nick Moran: Eddie

Jason Statham: Bacon

Steve Mackintosh: Winston

Vinnie Jones: Big Chris

Released by Gramercy Pictures. Director Guy Ritchie. Producer Matthew Vaughn. Executive producers Steve Tisch & Peter Morton, Stephen Marks & Angad Paul, Trudie Styler. Screenplay Guy Ritchie. Cinematographer Tim Maurice-Jones. Editor Niven Howie. Costumes Stephanie Collie. Music David A. Hughes & John Murphy. Production design Iain Andrews, Eve Mavrakis. Set decorator Jacalyn (Jack) Hyman. Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes.

At selected theaters.