Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels - rated - Simmering

Think caper film. Think Ealing comedy caper film. Now think grunge, Trainspotting, blood, gore, guns, Tarantino and Scorsese's Raging Bull.. Now think The Bill and The Long Good Friday. Be prepared to laugh a lot, translate from a foreign language (Cockney Rhyming Slang), and to stay on your toes to follow a labrynthine plot. Do all those things and there you have Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

The cast is an interesting mix - there's a group of young British actors with a fair grasp of comedy timing. There's an extraordinary-looking set of character actors and extras, including gravel-voiced Lennie McLean, who was a real life villain and friend of the Kray brothers and to whom the film is dedicated. There's someone called Vinnie Jones, whom I gather is soccer star. And there's Sting. Now I like Sting's music, and I can only imagine that the writer/director, Guy Ritchie, does too. Ritchie was a music video director, and I guess he cast Sting for fun. But he certainly doesn't get much of performance out of Sting, which is a pity, because it's a good role for an actor, but Sting just sleepwalks through it.

Ritchie has a good eye - he knows how to tell a story and he manages to unfold the narrative in an interesting , if fragmented way. He uses a narrator, which is not always ideal, but the plot here is so complicated and there are so many characters that it might have been essential. Still, Ritchie doesn't over-rely on the narrator: he has a good eye and he shows us the story as well as telling it. Frequently the telling comes after the showing and that often makes the joke - we see something puzzling which is explained later.

This films's editing is spot-on. My favourite scene takes place in a boxing ring (which is why I thought of Raging Bull ), during a card game. The visuals and editing here are truly excellent. They combine to give you a sense of what the characters are thinking and feeling - so much so that you feel as if you are going through the experience with them. It is a really strong scene in a film that tries very hard to be hip, new and exciting. And that, along with the very strong and clever script, makes me think that there is real talent here - not just pyrotecnics. It's a busy film, to be sure, so brimming with ideas and characters that it is almost too demanding. But it maintains a sharp comic edge, which keeps refreshing you and renewing your perceptive faculties.