#25- Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

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This post was written by guest writer Bryan Hernandez

Who's List This Was On:
- Bryan Hernandez: #2

Directed By: Guy Ritchie
Written By: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones, and Jason Flemyng

The Plot

Four London working class stiff pull their money to put one in a high stakes card game, but things go terribly wrong and they end up owing half a million pounds and have one week to come up with the cash.

Why This Movie Is Great

I know the first question on everybody’s mind is “Why Lock, Stock and not Snatch (2000)?” This is a perfectly legitimate question. Many, like the organizer of this poll, Mr. Kaplan, prefer Snatch to Lock, Stock. Some of them (like the esteemed Mr. Kaplan) recognize that they saw Snatch first. I recon to go as far as to say that most American’s first exposure to the British crime comedy/drama genre was Snatch. It had Brad Pit in it, after all. The novelty of seeing a movie like this sticks with a person; that first experience and exposure creates an elevated perception that becomes very difficult to measure up to. It’s like one’s first good high, good random hook-up, or good oyster (pick your cliché). My answer to this question, at the risk of sounding like a mega hipster, is that Lock, Stock is more authentic.

It seems to me that in Lock, Stock, writer/director Guy Richie wasn't trying to make a movie for Americans. The film is filled with many more things colloquially British than Snatch. The plot, as expected from a Guy Richie movie, is overly complicated and twisted in the best possible way and centers on the concept of petty cash won and lost in the traditionally British card game of Three Card Brag.The story brings to life the toil of lower class Brits and the lengths they will endure to avoid debt and deflect corrupt crime bosses. The danger faced by the protagonists in Lock, Stock feels very gritty, real, and visceral, as Richie conveys just how ruthless and quick to the trigger their enemies are. The films serves not only as a fun and jaunting story, but also as a subtle commentary on British culture – commentary that might be missed by a Hollywood audience. For example, the portrayal of two inept Liverpudlian thieves not only provides a plot driving device and comic relief, but also a nod to the very British notion of people from the north of England being low class morons. While there are PLENTY of British-isms in Snatch, they are overly blunt and intended to be understood by even the thickest of American audience members. While still hilarious, they lack the subtlety of the ones found in Lock, Stock that, for me at least, render it the superior film.

That specific detail aside, the movie is plainly fun. The film is filled with loads of quotable quips and dry British wit. The plot twists around itself so much, one can not help but be excited to see if and how Richie will return the protagonists to a status quo by the film’s end. And in my opinion, he does it with much more skill and finesse in Lock, Stock than in Snatch. Plus, Ritchie introduces audiences to ex-footballer (soccer player) and all around awesome badass Vinnie Jones, who became a staple of Brit stereotypes following this movie.

Of course, it would also be a crime worthy of a bit of a kickin’ if after that review I did not recommend this: