Guest contributor John Fitzsimons tells us why IMDB Top 250 film Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrells turned him into a RIGHT FAHKIN’ MUG!
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a film that does strange things to people.
It prompted a chap in my class at school to phone me – twice – within an hour of finishing the movie to explain the plot. It convinced Hollywood that Vinnie Jones could act.
Most troubling of all, it led to me adopting the accent of an East End geezer.
This wasn’t an immediate thing. After all, the film came out in 1998 when I was still at school in East London, so had something of an accent anyway. But it was when I went to University in sunny Southampton in 2002 and sat my new friends down for a watch of the movie that it turned me into a tragic, bespectacled Ray Winstone tribute act.
The story itself is nothing revolutionary. A card game goes wrong. A group of friends end up hugely in debt to the sort of chap you don’t want to owe money to. And they only have a week to pay it off. Hilarity ensues.
But it’s the way that story is told. There’s a real swagger to the film, the sort of cocksure arrogance that was all over the place in the days of Cool Britannia. If ever a film smelt of Lynx Africa, it was Lock, Stock.
The film-making itself is very slick, with the sort of camera angle flourishes that – for better or worse – are synonymous of Guy Ritchie films.
And then there’s the dialogue. It’s punchy, it’s memorable, it’s funny. I’m a sucker for a film that’s quotable in everyday life, and lines from Lock, Stock very quickly became standard fare down the pub. Honestly now, who among us hasn’t seen a bargain down the shops or online and responded: “It’s a deal, it’s a steal, it’s sale of the fucking century!”
The music also deserves a mention. There has rarely been a more perfect soundtrack. From the opening montage and Ocean Colour Scene’s 100 Mile High City to James Brown’s The Boss via Dusty Springfield’s Spooky, every song perfectly fits the characters on screen and the mood at that moment.
If Quentin Tarantino had been born in Bow he would have made Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
There are a number of stand-out performances in the film. Jason Statham was the epitome of gravelly cool – if I was Kelly Brook, I would have slept with him too. You’d never believe this Dexter Fletcher was the same guy from Press Gang and that awful spell hosting Gamesmaster, while Frank Harper’s Dog is a genuinely unsettling thief with a mean golf swing.
The cameos are great too: Rob Brydon’s parking attendant, Sting as a bar owner and Danny John-Jules (better known as Cat from Red Dwarf) in a fabulous scene spoofing the excesses of cockney rhyming slang.
But really, the movie is all about one man.
Vinnie Jones was an untalented hacker as a footballer, and he’s not much better as an actor. Yet he is by a distance the best thing in this movie as Harry the Hatchet’s debt collector Big Chris.
He oozes charisma and menace, bringing the pain to anyone who doesn’t pay their debts or dares to swear (or even blaspheme) in front of his son, Little Chris. It’s not just the violence though – Jones demonstrates some beautiful comic timing and is clearly relishing every second. It’s difficult not to get caught up in that.
Great films don’t just leave a mark on their audience; they also influence other filmmakers. Just as Blair Witch Project led to a flurry of handheld footage movies (which are still rife today), Lock, Stock also saw a revival in the British gangster movie.
Sadly, many of these feature Danny Dyer. But genuinely brilliant films like Layer Cake simply would not exist if not for Lock, Stock. That’s a fantastic legacy.
As for me, it didn’t take long to realise I sounded like an absolute berk. Besides, when I read the philosophy texts I was supposed to be studying, the voice in my head did so in a Cockney accent. Cogito ergo sum, you mug.
John Fitzsimons is the editor of personal finance website lovemoney.com and writes about things other than money to keep him sane. His wife still hasn’t forgiven him for subjecting her to Green Street simply for the chance to hear Frodo sing “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”.