I walked into "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" expecting to be bored out of my fucking skull by the latest in the neverending string of shitty "Pulp fiction" remakes, but I'll be damned if it isn't the best rip-off yet. Even with the decided drawback of being about Limeys, the flick still succeeded for me.
Most of these "Pulp Fiction" retreads are made by chronically uncool assholes who want to make up for all the wedgies they got in their high school years by saying "Look at all the blood and all the cool dialogue I can force into these people's mouths." Those flicks are all about attitude and not about anything resembling an interesting or intelligible story. "Lock, Stock" is different. The idea to make a "cool" movie didn't come first. Maybe director Guy Ritchie decided to make this movie and it just happened to be cool.
Four petty thiefs from the east end of London get themselves deep into debt to a porn king in a rigged poker game, and they will lost their clitoris-diddling digits if he is not paid back. They overhear their criminal neighbors setting up a big score of some lethargic pot dealers. They decide to rob the neighbors, after they have robbed the potheads. They do successfully get the money and pot, only to discover that the pot actually belongs to the man they wanted to fence it through. So, now all of London's thugs, including the original criminals, are converging on tese four sods. What ensues is an incredibly gory gunfight between everyone in London except the four boys and the police.
While we've all seen the story elements before (rigged poker game, brutal debt collectors, thiefs robbing thiefs, etc.) they are layered so thickly that it worked. Perhaps Ritchie has attention deficit disorder because he crams every damn second of film with some scheme or some sort of torture.
The dialogue is sharp to a point. Every character can't have something brilliant to say all the time, and it looks like Ritchie agrees. The problem is, everyone says brilliant things early, but then stops once the bullets start flying. The movie goes from verbal wit to visual wit, succeeding at both, but rarely at the same time. Like most moviemakers he has been convinced by the shit he sees that you can't get by on wit alone, so you'd better fire loads and loads of guns.
The characters are better than the average micks drawn up by film-school grads who don't know what the fuck they're talking about. Of course, they fit into the Tarantino mold: the laid-back hip, black drug king; the weird, sadistic porn king (you can guess right from the start that someone will get beaten with a dildo); the kid criminals in over their heads; and the incredibly brutal henchmen. But, while most of the asshole, pretentious Tarantino wannabes define their characters by their quirks, Ritchie defines his by their roles. Each one of these stereotypes is believable within his role. The hoodlums are smart but not too smart, and the movie sets up a pretty fair match of wits and gun-power among the various bands of ne'er-do-wells.
I also gave the movie extra credit for calling the porn shop Harry's Sex Shop, because that was also the name of the one on the old SCTV show.
The movie looks good, too, for what it is. East London is dark, depressing and collapsing. I for one was glad to see it. I'm sick of the fucking Brits coming over here and telling me how great their Empire is when it's obviously a filthy pile of rubble with more crooks crawling around than in the McDonald's dumpsters near my job. I guess the Limeys are too busy putting filly pants on their Buckingham guards to notice the decay.
The movie suffers from "hip" soundtrack syndrome, which is a trend that's really pissing me off. I'm sick of these "smart" soundtracks that are only smart because they pick old obscure songs. If you really were hip, you'd already have these songs on fucking 8-track. As usual, in "Lock, Stock" they're played too loud and too long. But, I guess the movie is a great excuse to compile them for anyone just learning how to be hip.
This flick also has the same problem that Spandex pants do. A little in spandex pants looks good, but too much and they lose all appeal. Well, I stopped counting colorful characters at about 50 and wished I could focus a little more on a few so my little brain wouldn't get so damn confused. Same is true for the plot. Five or six subplots are fine and diverting, but thirty makes it
Finally, and this is a big problem with me: none of these Brits had fucked up teeth. That really makes the movie hard to believe.
I'm going to give Mr. Ritchie a strong three fingers for a fine, if overwhelming, debut.