Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1999)

Written and Directed by Guy Ritchie
Starring Nick Moran, Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones

My Advice: Don't Miss It.

Four amigos in London's East End decide to pony up a wad of cash and send in their best card player, Eddie (Moran), to a high stakes game in order to bring home the gold.  However, Hatchet Harry (P.H. Moriarty) has rigged the game to rook the lads for all they're worth and then some.  If the four don't get the money back to Harry before a week goes by, then they'll have to deal with the other half of his name.  What ensues is a caper that I can't even begin to explain here because of its intricacies, but rest assured that it is a farce with guns.

Let me go ahead and cut through it and tell you straight: this movie blew me away.  I'm not used to films this good being released in the first quarter/first half of a year.  This is normally where studios throw unwatchable formulaic crap and wait for Oscar season to roll around again.  Which means the really good stuff shows up at Christmas.  However, this film is the exception to that rule. 

Now, the movie has an intensely authentic feel to it.  And I know you're thinking Widge, Guy Ritchie's a Brit, how could he not write an authentic "Brit" film?  Well, consider how many fake terrible American films you've seen written by Americans, and you can understand my gabberflastedness.  How did he do it?  Well, the script is smartly written, so you never think, "People don't talk like that" or "People would never do something like this."  It's just the right mix of violence and humor with most of the intense bloodbaths happening off-camera.  Add to all of that a double helping of  Ritchie's even-handed directing complete with just the right amount of cool cinematography. 

Then the casting.  Ritchie stated that a lot of his cast were ex-cons, so they certainly had the criminal look about them.  For the leads, he cast football player (soccer for the uninitiated) Vinnie Jones as an imposing collection man, Big Chris (complete with son, Little Chris, played by Chris McNicholl).  He cast bare-knuckle fighter Lenny McLean as Barry the Baptist, assistant to Hatchet Harry.  So you never once think that the characters can't make good on their threats.  And there are quite a few.  As for the four who make up the lead "gang," Moran, Flemyng, Fletcher and Statham--they are absolutely hilariously brilliant playing complete screw-ups with believable camaraderie and a kind of goofy charm.  They're losers, but you want them to come out on top, although with the breaks their characters get, it's hard to tell from one minute to the next if they will or not.  

So the final word is this: I cannot recommend this movie enough.  It's a funny, bright thriller that is an example of twisted perfection.  Do yourself a favor and see it.

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