I almost feel as if you need to be on a stimulant to keep up with the second half of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. If you’re not, you might not be able to follow along; that’s the kind of energy that it brings to the table. The first half is just as absurd, but it’s more slowly paced. That’s all set-up, anyway. The real fun of a movie like this is the execution and the aftermath. It’s a heist film with more than two parties involved, leading to some absolutely hilarious situations.
The basic plot involves four friends, one of whom is very good at cards, losing £500,000 and having to come up with it in one week. If not, they lose their fingers, toes, and, eventually, their lives. The one who loses the money, Ed (Nick Moran), also puts his father’s pub on the line. Because, when you deal with gangsters, and you go into debt to them, you don’t get to make up the rules, I suppose. Just so you can appreciate how awesome this movie is, here’s a fun tidbit of information: Sting — yes, the lead singer for The Police — plays Ed’s father, and gets a few scenes to do so.
The rest of the group, consisting of Soap (Dexter Fletcher), Bacon (Jason Statham, in his first film role) and Tom (Jason Felmyng), have to help Ed come up with a solution to their money problem, or else Harry “The Hatchet” (P. H. Moriary) will be at their doorstep ready to chop off body parts. The eventual decision is to pull off a heist — although it’s more like a heist of a heist. They plan to steal from a group who had just stolen from some other people, catching them when (presumably, I guess) they’re most vulnerable.
It takes about half the film for this plan to actually be thought out and then prepared. This half of the film is interesting, but it lacks any sort of energy. It has a lot of characters, many of whom I haven’t and probably won’t introduce because it’ll become overwhelming, but most of them don’t do a whole lot. There’s still a lot of time left before their body parts are put at risk, after all. And with so many characters, we have to at least establish them all in a few scenes before we can put them into motion for the second half.
And what a second half this is. Here is where all the payoff happens, where each scene is filled with so much dramatic irony, so much humor, that they’re all a delight. The characters all matter, simply because we need to know their affiliations and relationships with rival factions, but the situations themselves are the star. Suffice to say the neither heist goes according to plan, and that for the following forty minutes, you’re in for such a joy.
It’s never hard to follow along to the basic idea of things, but to really appreciate Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, you have to be quick. You have to be ready to pay attention, and you need commit to doing so. You need to be functioning on the same sort of wavelength that its writer-director, Guy Ritchie, is on. You don’t linger on scenes or particular moments, because you’ll miss something. It’s a film you absorb fully after it concludes, but enjoy in the moment while it plays.
This is why I mentioned that a stimulant might be beneficial, especially if you try to watch the film after a day at work or something like that. An energy drink or cup of coffee might just perk you up enough to follow along at the same speed it’s moving. It’s perfectly fine to trail behind, and perhaps re-watch it once you have the gist of it, but the second half can be quite the experience the first time around if you’re prepared for what it has to offer you.
There are no problems I can think of with the second half. It’s paced perfectly, everything falls perfectly into place, and even though a couple of the situations are predictable, it surprises you anyway. Sometimes because of the way the scenario you envisioned is handled, and sometimes because it goes in a completely different direction than you predicted. If the entire movie was this well-done, I would have no problem whatsoever with it, and I would recommend going to see it this instant.
However, the first half is slow, and a bit of a trudge to get through, actually. I anticipate this not being as big of a problem on a second viewing, as you’ll know the characters and can appreciate what’s established about them even more, but the first time around it was bothersome. Not a deal breaker, I assure you, and because of how fantastic the second half is, it’s worth sitting through, but considering we rarely focus on individual characters, it’s a bit odd to give us so much time getting to know them each. There are three main teams in the film, and thinking about them that way would have gotten us to the fun stuff much faster.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a lot of fun once you get past the first 45 minutes or so. The earlier parts aren’t bad, per se, but they don’t even hold a candle to the second half, which is absolutely perfect in pretty much every way. It is filled with so much irony, misunderstanding, humor, and violence — it’s so much fun that it’s impossible to describe it. Go watch this movie just for its second half.