Tag Archives: Guy Ritchie

Jack Brazil on Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrells (Guy Ritchie, 1998)

 

 

 

Almost 25 years since the feature directorial debut of Guy Ritchie, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels not only holds up as an entertaining film but also conveys an energetic pace and cadence that continually excites across the development of his filmography.

 

Lock Stock’s simplistic yet intricate plot pits four young, cocky and naive London boys against a slew of hardened criminals and savage gangsters after they lose a rigged game of cards, having to repay a half-a-million-pound debt with a week to drum up the funds. Through several hyper-violent altercations and a pinch of good luck, the boys manage to walk away unscathed after dipping their toes into the criminal underworld of London. Along the way, Richie introduces us to colourful and larger-than-life stock characters that are entertaining plot devices and memorable in their own right.

The protagonist quartet; Tom (Jason Flemyng) Bacon (Jason Statham) Eddy (Nick Moran) & Soap (Dexter Fletcher) have an undeniably charismatic on-screen presence. The on-screen chemistry of Richie’s characters is a shining example of outstanding casting choices, many of the film’s actors were unknowns at the time and the overnight success of the film made stars like Statham immediately sought after and hot property. The back-and-forth banter combined with abrasively sarcastic and ‘laddy’ personalities is one of the few markers of the film being a product of its era, at the height of British working-class new lad culture. Maliciously charming debt collector Chris (Vinnie Jones) is type cast as a gangster, a parallel to his behaviour on the pitch as a professional footballer, Sting makes a cameo appearance as Eddy’s father and pro boxer Lenny McClean known as ‘the hardest man in Britain’ perfectly cast as monster man Barry the Baptist. London geezers-geezing, north-south divides with toffs and gangster clashes populate the gritty sepia backdrop of Richie’s east London. Richie’s razor-sharp and witty dialogue effortlessly characterises, informs, and entertains all with a sprinkling of dark humor which differentiates the film from others in the genre.

One element of Richie’s work that has defined his career as a director is his control of pace and cadence, few other directors of high profile are able to create kinetic energy on screen that matches. Richie’s command over pacing can be attributed to his experimental editing techniques, as a former music video director, Richie had plentiful experience with producing stylish and impactful content on a lower budget, controlling visuals to match audio, something that continues to be prevalent across his filmography. Richie’s stylish editing can be boiled down to the concept of ‘fast & slow’, in terms of formal elements this consists of; speed-ramps, freeze-frames, slow-motion, intercutting, parallel action and superimposition.

 

 

As his first film, Lock Stock is an example of Richie’s raw ambition on display, the cadence of Richie’s scenes is dictated by his efficient writing style combined with his stylish and temporally playful editing techniques culminating in unique kineticism that has become a staple of the sub-genre.

 

Jack Brazil

Practice Of Criticism Podcast 2022: Episode 1 – Lock Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels with Jack Brazil

Almost a quarter century after its first release, Lock. Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (1998) remains immensely stylish and entertaining, a landmark film that drew on the tradition of the British gangster film and succeeded in changing the genre’s direction. Whether Guy Ritchie is underrated is a thread that underpins the podcast. Jack Brazil and José Arroyo also discuss the film’s style; the cadence, pace and editing with which movement and action are constructed and conveyed; we talk about its playful experimental tone; how it succeeds as comedy, and how Ritchie’s eye for casting launched one of the most important careers in the action genre for decades to come: that of Jason Statham, whose first film this is…. all that, and much much more

The podcast may be listened to below:

Jack Brazil & José Arroyo

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 206 – The Gentlemen

 

Guy Ritchie returns to the guns ‘n’ geezers mine with The Gentlemen, a caper with a beautifully dressed and enjoyably playful cast. We discuss his stylish direction, ability to work with actors, the audiences that adore his work, how the film functions as fantasy, and its issues with being casually offensive.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Guy Ritchie, 2017)

 

 

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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is typical  Guy Ritchie, all the Cockney crim faux-mateyness — even in Camelot! — with that amped up camera movement that doesn’t quite let the audience see, and the narrative cheats — the seeing and the re-seeing –through characters’ re-telling the story. The narrative this time encased in a by-the-book Oedipal structure. And yet I found it great fun.

I like all the macho schtik and the fast pace and the cheekyness. Plus it’s a good looking cast, which always helps. Charlie Hunnam’s never been more appealing on a big screen and it’s got Eric Bana, Jude Law and a host of excellent Brit actors relishing their parts. The film looked darker than I would have liked. But some of the fantasy/magical images were very striking (if edging on sexist — the octopus/snake witches!).

I also loved the film’s picturing of  Londinium, which  looks a grand riverside ruin with one of those busy bridges with shops and brothels and so on; full of Roman architecture, including remains of a Coliseum, Roman palaces etc.. The film must have been greatly influenced by the Scott Lynch’s ‘Gentlemen Thieves’ books like The Republic of Thieves or perhaps Game of Thrones  because it’s all about King Arthur growing to be a man by leading a hard-knock life as a petty thief raised by a gaggle of prostitutes in a brothel instead of growing up true blue on a farm as traditional renderings have it.

It’s not good but it is fun if you don’t ask too much of it. And it was all worth it to witness the Queer as Folk re-union between Hunnam and Aiden Gillen: hey honeytits! I found it perfect rainy day Saturday afternoon viewing.

 

José Arroyo

The Man From U.N.C.L.E (Guy Ritchie, USA, 2015)

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The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is unexceptional but rather fun, in a slightly leaden way. Guy Ritchie directs the action well, attempts a cheeky ironic tone for the film  he doesn’t always succeed in achieving, and is not very good with those actors who need his help: Armie Hammer is completely inexpressive physically though does a great accent and can find comic timing vocally that somehow eludes other aspects of his performance; Henry Cavill does better and is better looking doing it but he’s done so much weightlifting his body strains at his suits, evoking a kind of physical boxiness that works against that nonchalant physical elegance the character is meant to exude; a rare instance in which a great body works against the role (though his performance is also sabotaged by the cinematography); Alicia Vikander is pretty but can’t find a rhythm  for her performance and seems wasted; Elizabeth Debicki fares better as the villainess and her long leggy frame, elegant way of wearing clothes, and understated ironic way with a line makes her very enjoyable to watch. But it is Hugh Grant —  only in the film for what seems like two minutes — who steals the show. A trifle, not light or sparkly enough but with some clever action and a great score of 60s tunes. The audience did like it even though either the print or the projection didn’t provide the luminosity the colour palette seemed to require. It is better and more enjoyable than an episode of the old TV show.

José Arroyo

 

Addendum: I have now seen this twice more on Netflix and found it great fun. My appreciation of Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander increased; my love of the soundtrack sky-rocketed. It is a trifle, very broad and fast-moving with the set-pieces working much better than my first impression. I now recommend it.