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Film review: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Dark comedy has more twists than a roller coaster

Published: Monday, March 29 1999 4:29 p.m. MST

"Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" might best be described as one of those films that's full of the "Oh no!" factor.

In other words, audience members shouldn't be surprised if they find themselves saying, "Oh no, I can't believe that's happening," or "Oh, he didn't, did he?" or "Oh no, this is so outrageous!"

A dark comic crime thriller from talented newcomer Guy Ritchie, the movie could be the bastard child of "Pulp Fiction" and "Trainspotting," though it's definitely too original and entertaining to be merely an homage to either.

This cinematic roller-coaster ride is also full of more twists and turns than a San Francisco hillside.

But be warned that it's very violent and profane, with a streak of cruelty that's almost on par with the more brutal moments from "Payback."

The story is set in London's East End and follows four buddies — Eddie (Nick Moran), Tom (Jason Flemyng), Bacon (Jason Statham) and Soap (Dexter Fletcher) — who are hoping to score big in a high-stakes poker game. Unfortunately, they haven't even considered that the game's host, Hatchet Harry (P.H. Moriarty), might be cheating.

Needless to say, they lose big. And in order to pay off the merciless crook, they have to find some cash — and quick. So they decide to rip off Dog (Frank Harper), the hood next door, who in turn is planning to rob some neighborhood drug dealers.

What follows next is a hilarious series of accidental double-crosses, botched heists and other bungled crimes. Ritchie is smart to play things out comically, and some of the violence is more implied than explicit.

And though Ritchie isn't the most accomplished filmmaker, his artistic use of freeze-frames, slow motion and other camera trickery proves he is a precocious talent to be reckoned with in the future.

Helping matters greatly is a terrific cast, including the four leads, as well as British soccer star Vinnie Jones and the late Lenny McLean (playing two of Hatchet Harry's enforcers) — and Sting, who plays Eddie's surprisingly unsympathetic father.

One other thing it could definitely use is subtitles, since the thick English accents are sometimes hard to understand, as is the use of copious British slang.

"Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" is rated R for violent gunplay and vicious beatings, considerable profanity, some gore, use of vulgar slang terms, two scenes of torture, female nudity (a strip club scene) and simulated drug use (marijuana).

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