Here it is, ladies and gentlemen: the award-winning film that launched the careers of Guy Ritchie, Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones both internationally and in the United States (we don’t consider ourselves part of the “international” market with anything). It took the crime caper film to a new level (a genre that had been suffering since the ‘70s or so — Quentin Tarantino and John Woo entries not withstanding, of course), and fused a generous helping of black comedy and frenzy editing into the mix. The result: an instant classic that‘s still just as masterful as it was back in 1998 (even though 1998 wasn’t too terribly long ago).
Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels is the story of four hapless London hustlers (Jason Flemying, Jason Statham, Nick Moran, and Dexter Fletcher) who place all of their hard(ly) earned money into a high stakes poker game — and lose. But just being broke isn’t enough for these poor saps to endure, and they wind up owing underworld kingpin Hatchet Harry (P.H. Moriarty) a half-million pounds. With only a few days on their side to raise the money to pay the sadistic Hatchet Harry off (the promise of losing their fingers is mild compared to some of the things Harry is notorious for), the boys come up with a harebrained scheme to rob some local drug dealers, wherein they are given two antique shotguns to perform their task — shotguns that Hatchet Harry arranged to have stolen and is more than anxious to get his hands on!
And then their troubles really begin. Enter into the fray Harry’s bodyguard, Barry the Baptist (the late Lenny McLean); a psychotic debt collector (Vinnie Jones) who is training his young son in the ways of being persuasive; gangster Rory Breaker (Vas Blackwood); and even musician Sting (who plays the father of one of our heroes) and Danny John-Jules (the Cat from Red Dwarf). And it’s all housed in one extremely fast-paced setup that introduces more crazy characters and subplots (which pay off along the way) than any American soap opera could ever hope to do.
It’s hard to believe that such a finely tuned and beautifully polished film was actually Guy Ritchie’s theatrical debut as both a writer and director. Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels should serve as definite proof that there is some serious talent out there in the world (Swept Away not withstanding). Two years later, Ritchie would again cast Statham and Jones in the similarly-veined (and just as enjoyable) Snatch, which I heartily recommend in addition to Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels.
And now onto the Blu-ray presentation. This is where the news gets bad, kids. Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels is presented in a 1080p/VC-1 transfer preserving the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The High Def transfer here is better than it was on any of the older Standard Definition DVD issues, but Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels was a low-budget, gritty, and filtered-looking film to begin with (which was shot on 16mm and blown-up to 35mm). What we have here is a much more solid presentation with greater detail, but nothing that will have you going all sorts of “oooh.”
Accompanying the feature film is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Again, it’s an improvement over what we had on the previously released DVDs — but it’s a bit disappointing as far as DTS-HD MA soundtracks go. Most of the action comes through the front speakers, while the rear amps seem to go on extended breaks quite frequently. Standard 5.1 DTS soundtracks are available in French, German, and Castilian Spanish, while subtitles include French, French Canadian, German, Castilian Spanish, Latin American Spanish, Dutch, and English (SDH), so you can try to decipher some of the Cockney rhyming slang used throughout the film.
As great of a film Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels is, it’s a bit of a letdown on Blu-ray in the A/V departments. But the biggest frown of all in Universal’s High Def release is in the form of the special features department, which shamelessly repackages the same handful of extras from the 2006 Locked ‘N Loaded Director’s Cut DVD, but neglects to actually include the Locked ‘N Loaded Director’s Cut of the film itself, offering us the Theatrical Edition only here. Perhaps somebody needs to remind the folks at Universal that we do possess the technology to include multiple versions of movies on these shiny disc thingies.
The bottom line here: by itself, it’s a great movie. But given the plain presentation, the lack of the Director’s Cut (it’s called “Seamless Branching,” I think, Universal), and the same old boring extras, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels isn’t a great Blu-ray release. In fact, it’s kind of lame. My recommendation would be to buy it on the cheap or rent it.