Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

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For the first 10 minutes, writer-director Guy Ritchie’s first feature film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, looks like yet another cross between Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting. But as the main characters of this shady world are introduced – Eddie (Nick Moran), Tom (Jason Flemyng), Bacon (Jason Statham) and Soap (Dexter Fletcher), all best mates and lads who can hold their own in and around the East End – the film finds its own fast and furious pace as the funniest action farce to be made in a long time.

Ace cardsharp Eddie never loses a game – until he does and finds himself owing Hatchet Harry (P.H. Moriarty), porn king and top neighborhood crime lord, the well-rounded sum of 500,000 pounds. Unless the money’s paid inside a week, Eddie’s gang – all for one and more for all – will have to save their arses by forfeiting Eddie’s father’s (Sting) bar to Harry. Not bloody likely if the mates can help it!

So the brilliant lads get off their backsides and whip this plan together, a big grab that will save their skins, leave them well-off – so they won’t have to sell counterfeit perfume on the street any more – and teach them the value of a pair of vintage shotguns.

As the mates get wild, so does the camera. Arrested in motion, Eddie’s cards seem to collapse under the tension of their own disastrous financial implications as – at the end of the game – in tilted angles and shattered movements, so does the hero’s dizzy world.

There is nothing predictable in this caper whose hyper and cartoonish characters remind us of glib yet foolish stage buffoons – as director Ritchie puts it, "the truer the villains, the funnier they are." But, exaggerated or not, this sleazy world of handsome blokes has an authentic feel about it – suggested, in part, by the casting of several ex-cons to lend credibility to the street brawls.

"The bad guys really do look bad, believe me, " Jason Flemyng says of the genuine villains on the set. "If they asked you for the time, you would give them your watch."

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