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23 hrs ago
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels(1998)
Streetwise charmer Eddie enters the biggest card game of his life with the savings of his three best friends: Tom, Bacon and Soap. But he leaves the table owing his underworld boss Hatchet Harry half a million and has a week to come up with the money. Now Eddie and his friends must outsmart and outgun all types of lowlifes on their way to pay off Harry before time runs out.
For more about Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Blu-ray release, see Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 28, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Nick Moran, Jason Statham, Nicholas Rowe, Steven Mackintosh
Director: Guy Ritchie
» See full cast & crew
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Blu-ray Review
Ritchie's entertaining, foul-mouthed heist flick earns a mediocre Blu-ray release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 28, 2009
Before Swept Away, Revolver, and a soul-sapping relationship with Madonna left fans and critics wondering if acclaimed British filmmaker Guy Ritchie had gone mad; before Snatch briefly granted him access to Hollywood's inner sanctum and Brad Pitt's heart (arguably one and the same); and long before RocknRolla signaled his welcome return to his cinematic roots, there was Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Like Quentin Tarantino did with Reservoir Dogs some six years earlier, Ritchie designed his first feature to shatter expectations and challenge genre convention, leaning on sharp, double-edged dialogue and increasingly complex conflict to test his enterprising misfits' acid-tongued mettle. While the resulting film is a bit more superficial than substantial -- and, in retrospect, isn't quite the revelation it was ten years ago -- it's difficult to deny its lasting appeal. Ritchie not only succeeded as a filmmaker, nabbing accolades and awards, his debut rightfully won him the devotion of cinephiles the world over.
Compressing the plot of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels into a single paragraph (or for that matter as many as six) is a laughable undertaking fraught with peril. But duty calls. When lifelong friends Tom (Jason Flemyng), Bacon (Jason Statham), Eddie (Nick Moran), and Soap (Dexter Fletcher) are given one week to pay a ludicrous sum of money to a ruthless crime lord dubbed Hatchet Harry (P. H. Moriarty), they decide to steal the money from their neighbors, a group of thieves plotting a harrowing heist of their own. Naturally, little goes as planned as the foursome are soon forced to deal with a hard-edged debt collector (the indomitable Vinnie Jones) and his young son (Peter McNicholl), a vicious kingpin (Vas Blackwood), Harry's bodyguard and close friend (Lenny McLean), a weapons dealer (Stephen Marcus) who inadvertently gives Tom and his cohorts a pair of antique shotguns meant for Harry's personal collection, and a steady parade of rival crooks and miscreants. It all comes to a head as anyone and everyone on screen draws a gun, leaving our bumbling protagonists to wonder what, if anything, they could have done differently to avoid such turmoil.
Confused? Don't fret, dear readers. Despite a seemingly endless array of sociopaths and villains, despite countless subplots and tangents (most of which conveniently converge midway through the second act), Ritchie's film is surprisingly streamlined. It only takes a half an hour or so to meet the entire cast of characters, and only a half hour more to get a handle on the many facets of the story. As he would do with Snatch two years later, Ritchie produces such memorable personalities and crosses their streams with such effortless ease that the rest of his script practically writes itself. Sure, it essentially boils down to a forty-minute Mexican standoff -- one that consists of at least a dozen temperamental players -- but the sheer joy the director injects into his epic showdown is worth the price of admission alone. Death is fused with hilarity, gunfire is laced with wit, and conversations are loaded with precision barbs and intelligent diatribes. While greed and desperation are at the forefront of the tale, it's Ritchie's sick sense of humor that prevails, elevating Lock, Stock and its cutthroat criminals to a higher plateau inspired by, but independent from, the work of Tarantino and his disciples. Finesse isn't a word often associated with Ritchie's breed of stylized, madcap genre pic, but the director brings a welcome assuredness to the production, a finesse if you will; the sort of confidence I'd expect from a more seasoned filmmaker, not a man helming his first major production.
If Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels suffers, it's in the wake of Snatch. Years after their inception, Ritchie's first film plays like a glorified casting reel for his superior sophomore effort. Everything from his stark cinematography to his winding narrative, his pulpy dialogue to his at-times cartoonish characters, his sudden quick-cuts to his penchant for slow-motion show-stoppers are on full display, albeit in early stages of their development. It certainly doesn't detract from the impact of the film, but it is a slight distraction, particularly when Ritchie goes too far, indulging his actors with lingering close-ups and static shots the director would later refine for Statham, Pitt, and the cast of Snatch. As a result, the film isn't nearly as fresh as it was a decade ago. Maybe I'm jaded after so many viewings, but other filmmakers have done more with less. While Ritchie undoubtedly deserves credit for his part in paving their way, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels hasn't aged as well as I hoped it would. Ah well, none of that should prevent anyone from sampling this perverse, blood-soaked British delicacy. I had a great time reacquainting myself with Tom, Bacon, Eddie, and Soap, and look forward to the next opportunity I have to soak up their criminal misadventures all over again.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Blu-ray, Video Quality
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels has never been an attractive film -- part of its charm lies in the grit and grime of its sepia-toned, neo-noir visuals -- but Universal's 1080p/VC-1 transfer is an unrepentant mess. Yes, compared to its decidedly dated DVD counterpart, colors are more stable and vibrant, black levels are much deeper, and detail is more refined and revealing. Unfortunately, overzealous artificial sharpening results in a number of issues. Frequent aliasing, ringing, serrated edges, and aggressive bursts of razor-sharp grain undermine the integrity of the transfer, cursing the presentation with an unnatural, digitized haze that robs the image of what could presumably be a convincing filmic appearance. It doesn't help that smudged textures and softness are more pronounced, specks and scratches pepper the proceedings, and contrast is pushed to such an extreme that clarity, skintones, and delineation take significant hits. As for the proficiency of the transfer itself, crush is a consistent issue, but artifacting and banding are kept to a minimum; grain spikes and lulls as it always has, but obvious smearing leaves me to believe DNR has been used on many sequences. That being said, it's tough to tell where Ritchie's production limitations end and Universal's fugly transfer begins. Desperate DVD owners will be somewhat pleased with any upgrade, even an inherent one, but newcomers and videophiles will be far less forgiving. Brace yourselves, gents.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Universal's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track represents a substantial step up from the standard mixes that have preceded it, but isn't nearly as polished or powerful as I had hoped. While gunshots pack the requisite lossless kick and LFE output is heartier and more robust than ever before, rear speaker activity is spotty, voices are occasionally swallowed by ensuing chaos, and normalization issues abound. Unreliable dynamics age Lock, Stock by an extra five years as well, leaving the film at the mercy of its relatively limited budget and its director's showmanship. Thankfully, the majority of Ritchie's rat-a-tat-tat dialogue is intelligible and well-prioritized, the satisfying kick-kack of automatic weapon fire lends intensity to several standout scenes, and some much-needed directional realism makes the overall experience moderately immersive. Is there room for improvement? Definitely. A complete overhaul could eliminate additional issues (like a faint hiss that periodically graces the soundscape) and smooth out some of the film's stockier pans (among other minor mishaps). Even so, Lock, Stock diehards will find Universal's DTS-HD MA track to be more than adequate.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Aside from Universal's now-standard features -- My Scenes bookmarking, BD-Live functionality, an interactive news ticker, and D-BOX support -- the Blu-ray edition of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels only includes two supplements: a short but satisfying behind-the-scenes featurette called "One Smoking Camera" (SD, 11 minutes) and a montage of F-bombs called "Lock, Stock and Two F**cking Barrels" (SD, 2 minutes).
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Though a lesser film than Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is nevertheless an entertaining precursor worthy of its Cockney-cult following. With searing dialogue and a rapidfire script that propels its twisted tale along, Ritchie's first foray into fame is fierce and funny. The Blu-ray edition is less successful, primarily due to its problematic video transfer, but also because its DTS-HD Master Audio track isn't all it could be and its supplemental package is a complete wash. While a considerable improvement from the previously released DVD, frugal fans will want to wait to pick this one up when it's on sale.
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• Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels Blu-ray Bound - September 25, 2009
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the Guy Ritchie film 'Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels' to Blu-ray on December 1st, day-and-date with the Sony Blu-ray release of another Richie film 'Snatch'. Video will be presented in ...
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