Guy Ritchie. Jason Statham. Vinnie Jones.
For this trio of sheer, unadulterated awesome, 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' was either a debut, or a sophomore feature. It's funny how time has flown in just ten years since the film was released. Statham has gone from being a model before his role in Ritchie's English gangster film, to action star success, with extreme name and face recognition. Jones has become more a bit part character actor, but his performances in 'Midnight Meat Train,' 'X-Men: The Last Stand' (he's the Juggernaut, bitch!), 'Mean Machine,' and 'The Condemned' show he has great potential...so long as he stays in the same type of role. Ritchie, though, has grown more than either of his finds, with his followup gangster films 'Snatch,' 'RocknRolla,' and to a lesser extent 'Revolver' gaining near-cult status on home video, opening the door for helming larger productions like the upcoming 'Sherlock Holmes.' Heck, his works have been so universally accepted that most audiences are willing to forgive him for 'Swept Away.'
With 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,' Ritchie showed promise, with a somewhat rough around the edges tale encompassing numerous criminal elements that intermingle and cross, twist, and turn, complex multi-faceted tales that can't be taken solely at face value, as even the events of other characters will create a full circle effect. He has gone on to perfect the formula in latter outings, but it is impossible to dismiss his early foray into the bumbling criminal element.
Eddie (Nick Moran), Soap (Dexter Fletcher), Tom (Jason Flemyng), and Bacon (Statham) are a mix of legit and criminal friends who find themselves deep in debt to a notorious mobster and porn king, 'Hatchet' Harry Lonsdale (P.H. Moriarty) after a fixed high stakes card game. With a week to come up with the money before fingers start disappearing, the crew have to find a way to pull together half a million pounds, while 'Hatchet's' collection gangster Big Chris (Jones) sets out to warn Eddie's father JD (Sting) that his bar may serve as collateral. Meanwhile, two bumbling goons have burgled a classic English home out of two antique rifles that could fetch a small fortune...only they don't know it. A group of thieving gangsters are out to raid a grow house, but the dealer they grow for won't be too pleased when he feels he's being played for the fool. All the stories will collide, creating a tale of fate and fortune (or misfortune for some) that will change (or end) the lives of everyone involved.
'Lock, Stock' isn't a smooth tale, with a few hang-ups in the narrative and pace, and some extreme reaches in logic and action, mistakes that Ritchie would fix for his next go 'round in the mobster series in 'Snatch.' This film is kind of a rough draft, or even a casting call, for Ritchie's masterpiece. Still, the film has a charm of its own, with the warmth for the characters shown in the writing evident even as they encounter a series of disastrous mishaps.
The bumbling friends are fun to watch, as even their penny ante schemes don't work out. They aren't cut out for the debt that is about to fall into their laps, nor are they ready to try to outsmart, outmuscle, outanything their thug neighbors, Harry, Chris, or anyone. Their plans for how to get the money (including an infamous scheme involving a fraudulent mail order company involving obscene refund checks) to pay off their debts are inept and lame, and the mistakes they make once they finally have a (half assed) plan are so green (read: amateurish) that it's hard to root against them. The best part of the situation is they hold the escape to their predicament in their hands, the entire time, yet don't even realize it.
Much like 'Reservoir Dogs' or 'Clerks,' 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' is a rough early film that has been adopted widely by home video audiences, bringing one of the great new directors of our generation to the spotlight. With fantastic filming elements creating iconic, amazing sequences, strong first time performances from the rookies in the cast, nice bit part jobs by character actors, and a strong sense of urgency coming from both the writing and direction of a burgeoning star, 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' is a great little mobster film.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels debuts on Blu-ray in the theatrical cut of the film that runs 107 minutes long (unlike the director's cut on the second domestic DVD release of the film that extended the film 13 minutes). Housed on a BD50 disc from Universal, this catalog title prompts a menu language menu before going to the main menu from which language tracks and extras can be selected. There are no pre-menu trailers to be found, but the disc is still fairly slow loading, even in a Playstation 3.
'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' features a VC-1 encode at 1080p framed at 1.85:1. The movie was filmed on 16mm and blown up to 35mm with a budget of less than a million pounds. I wasn't expecting anything breathtaking here. The film doesn't look beautiful, by any means, and has a handful of detracting elements, but all in all, this is a nice video upgrade, especially compared to the first Region 1 DVD release that I watched the day before viewing this Blu-ray.
The film has a very thick grain level (that fortunately isn't tampered with, as that would have created the soupiest video ever), mixed with some small dirt splotches that randomly pop up throughout the entire program. Detail levels are minimal for a few reasons; the entire film is baked in a sepia tone that kills skin tones and character on faces, blacks crush horribly (view a few seconds around the 39:16 mark for the worst example, where arms and jackets completely disappear into a closet/black hole), and the hefty grain doesn't help matters. There are a few super (super) close ups that show sharp stubble and peach fuzz, but otherwise, stubble appears like a blurry shadow on faces.
Some backgrounds can be incredibly blurred, faces are extremely splotchy, contrast levels are super hot, and there are no colors that stand out, not even the green greens in the grow house. Many of the issues here are a part of the film, and will always be present, hence why this transfer didn't get a lower score. It ain't pretty, but it never will be.
The audio for 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' comes by way of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. Again, the results are limited by the source, but there aren't any real negative elements in this mix like crackling, popping, whirring, stirring, or squealing. There just isn't much utilization of speakers.
Dialogue always comes from the front channels, never seeping into the rears like the score does. There's some great heft in the bass levels, especially in the two sequences where the bren gun is fired, though other than gunfire, the subwoofer in your system won't get that much of a workout here. Rear speakers? More of the same. There's some light rear presence in the above mentioned sequence, and when it goes into slow motion, there's tons of movement, localization, and bass thud. Beyond these few sequences, the film is what it is: front heavy, but clear. Nothing to write home about, but also nothing offensive enough to start a letter writing campaign over.
This Blu-ray release of 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' mostly resembles the supplement package from the re-release of the DVD, in that it matches the features included, and excluded. The cockney dictionary is gone, as are the trailers, and cast and crew bios.
'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' is the film that started a whole series of fantastic British mobster films that have captured my imagination, and the minds and hearts of many other fans out there. The film isn't the best made by Guy Ritchie, but damn if it isn't a great effort. This Blu-ray is limited by its source elements, and features a pretty lame set of extras (of which, there has never been a conclusive, thorough release of the film). This one is a solid upgrade regardless, and is worth picking up at a bargain price, but definitely not at retail pricing in brick and mortar stores.