Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Nick Moran, Jason Statham, Steven Mackintosh, Nicholas Rowe, Nick Marcq, Charles Forbes, Vinnie Jones, Lenny McLean, Peter McNicholl, P.H. Moriarty, Frank Harper, Steve Sweeney, Huggy Leaver
Written by: Guy Ritchie
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexuality and drug content
Running Time: 107
Date: 03/05/1999
IMDB

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

English Dogs

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

At the time, it looked as if Guy Ritchie were yet another opportunist cashing in on the Quentin Tarantino fever of the 1990s (and indeed, Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction were even more popular in Ritchie's home of England than they were in America). But in retrospect, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is an energetic, clever crime movie that looks into various little pockets of underworld life: sex, gambling, drugs, and hired thugs and uses them all against one another.

Four Londoners (Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Nick Moran, and Jason Statham) save up their money to enter their buddy in a high-stakes poker game. Despite his skill at reading faces, he loses and they now owe a fortune to a tough gangster. They learn through their next-door neighbors -- whom they can hear talking through thin walls -- where they can find a huge stash of pot (and cash) with little or no security. They design a complex plan to steal it, involving a host of other gangsters and thugs, but of course everything goes wrong. It's then up to coincidence and dumb luck to save the day.

Ritchie's camerawork is smooth and sprightly, and he has a definite rhythm for slang and profanity in his dialogue. He also has an eye for character actors, and at least two, Vinnie Jones and Jason Flemyng have gone on to interesting careers, while Jason Statham has become a full-fledged star. His way of diffusing violence with humor still definitely owes a little to Tarantino, but it works.

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