2 – Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
The film that started it all; this formidable debut may see its influences from notable 90s filmmakers as Quentin Tarantino – the use of low-lives in a major city committing criminal acts, all played for laughs and thrills, and quick-witted dialogue delivered in equal measures that is colloquial and quotable – but, more significantly, proved that British cinema needn’t adhere to gritty social realism, quirky/quaint humor, or to have cheap production values. It proved it could work alongside to flashier flicks Hollywood was producing (this was pre-Netflix, and a pre-globalized filmmaking community).
The murky brown color palette gives it a unique flavor and style, and to emphasize where these characters reside on society’s hierarchy. Its fusion of popular music and visuals to convey a narrative, notably the importance of character introductions in how to distinguish which anti-heroes the audience should like or hate, further reflects Ritchie’s film-watching experiences as these are clearly influences from Tarantino and Martin Scorsese.
There are cartoon-like comedic set pieces laced with casual swearing, like this entertaining scene with the iconic ‘Could everyone stop getting shot?’ line. The imagination deployed in this film where every scene is endlessly watchable is phenomenal as Ritchie focuses more on dialogue and space rather than extravagance.
It’s only major downfall is its scope; with so much at stake and the abundance of characters that aren’t all wholly distinguished, it can feel a little cluttered. Moreover, as there are two McGuffins at play here, rather than one in Ritchie’s second feature, it doesn’t feel tight or refined; there are, essentially, two stories at play here that only cross paths once.
Nonetheless, this is a remarkable debut by any filmmaker, and one that made Hollywood turn on to the potential of this British filmmaker.