Viking Night:
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

By Bruce Hall

September 28, 2010

Seriously, I don't think Guy should date Madonna and Jason shouldn't do that sex scene in Crank.

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Most consumers have no problem loving a huge budget blockbuster. Movies that are meant to appeal to the widest possible audience usually do just that. But some films have a narrower vision, or simply contain more complex meaning than meets the eye. They aren't always art, and they aren't always even very successful. But for a devoted and eccentric few, they're the best entertainment money can buy. Once, beginning with Erik the Viking, a group of dedicated irregulars gathered weekly in a dingy dorm room to watch these films and discuss how what pleases the few might also appeal to the many. Time has separated the others in those discussions so that I alone remain to ponder the wider significance of cult cinema. But while the room is cleaner and I no longer have to skip class to do it, I still think of my far off friends whenever I hold Viking Night.

There are basically two types of heist film. There’s the one where the criminals are brilliant specialists pitted against an equally cunning and ruthless adversary. The two sides clash, dance and engage in an intellectual chess match so exhilarating it almost makes you want to become a jewel thief yourself. And then there’s the kind where the criminals are complete idiots, in over their heads and outmatched at every turn. You root for them because everyone likes an underdog, but if you ever harbored dreams of being a master larcenist there’s no better proof that crime doesn’t pay. A great example of the first type is the drama Ocean’s Eleven. No, not the 1960 version where the Rat Pack decided got together for drinks and – oh yeah – made a movie. I mean the good one. The second type is almost always a comedy of some kind, and includes films like A Fish Called Wanda, lovingly populated with wall to wall morons, and the subject of this week’s column: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.


Lock, Stock is a movie that came into being at the hind end of the Tarantinoverse, which is what I like to call the period in the late '90s when just about every budget ensemble crime caper reminded you in some way of Pulp Fiction. But despite the chorus of detractors who label Guy Ritchie a usurper, it really isn’t a fair comparison. Lock, Stock stands out thanks to its pedigree; clever humor and colorful, offbeat characters are hardly unique to American cinema. British crime classics like The Italian Job and Get Carter weren’t just favorites in the U.K., they resonated with moviegoers and film makers on both sides of the pond. And they contribute their DNA to this slightly vapid but entertaining classic that spawned its own cottage industry of imitators without really breaking any new ground itself. Also, if you’re Ritchie, when your first film nets you almost 20 times its budget and gets you married to Madonna it’s fair to say that you nailed it – and you nailed it big time.

Despite the film’s hectic editing and convoluted dialogue, the plot is really pretty simple. It centers on four slackers, Bacon (Jason Statham), Soap (Dexter Fletcher), Tom (Jason Flemyng) and Eddy (Nick Moran), who are looking for a way to get rich quick. The boys manage to cobble together £100,000 and rather than betting it on a horse, they enter Eddy into a high stakes card game against a local thug named Harry the Hatchet (P.H. Moriarty). Eddy is well known in town as an ace with the cards but he’s a little on the arrogant side - so Hatchet lures him into an elaborate con that sees the boys in the hole for half a million pounds with one week to pay it back.

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