leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
The shadow of Guy Ritchie's LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS hangs heavily over this shaggy English gangster movie, but it's neither a rip-off nor a slavish imitation it's a larky variation on a theme and, despite some rough patches, it's a pretty entertaining ride. The running joke is that the movie's burly, scary-looking thugs are less interested in leg-breaking than their petty personal problems. At the center of its rollicking carnival of tough-guy posturing are childhood friends Jude (Jude Law) and Jonny (Jonny Lee Miller). Jude's Uncle Ray (Ray Winstone) is a big-shot North London gangster, and Jonny is a lowly, discontented messenger. Jonny pleads with Jude to persuade Ray to hire him; Jude, against his better judgement, agrees. Gangster life is a shock to Jonny, not because he's put off by the violence and everyday brutality of the business, but because Ray and his gang spend most of their time shooting the breeze Ray's upcoming marriage to soap opera star Sadie (Sadie Frost) is a popular topic and singing karaoke in their favorite pub. So Jonny livens things up, persuading Jude to help him rip off South London drug kingpin Sean (Sean Pertwee). The theft sparks a gang war, made worse by Jonny's personal feud with Sean's right hand, Mathew (Rhys Ifans). Written, produced and directed by Dominic Anciano and Ray Burdis (whose producing credits include THE KRAYS and THE REFLECTING SKIN, and who play two of Ray's goons), the film was largely improvised by the cast (many notably Frost, Pertwee, Law and Frost are members of Natural Nylon Productions) within a predetermined narrative framework. The result is sometimes strained, but often fresh and funny. And the sequence in which the entire cast sings "Avenues and Alleyways," bombastic '70s crooner Tony Christie's lush ode to thug life, is worth the price of admission in itself.