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Universal Studios Home Video presents
"All right, son. Roll them guns up, count the money, and put your seat belt on!"
DVD ReviewBack in the good old days, the "director's cut" label on a title usually meant excess-for-excess sake or perhaps the original version of a film that a studio mercilessly butchered and re-edited. These days, it typically means not much more than a few more minutes of extra footage—basically deleted scenes—recut into the finished feature. For this "locked n' loaded director's cut" of Guy Ritchie's 1998 feature directorial debut, that's basically what Universal has done, and the absence of any input from the director on what or where the new footage is kind of makes this a guessing game.
That doesn't make this a worthless release, especially considering the previous Polygram version is out of print, but a little explanation would have been nice. How do I know this is a director's cut and not just a hodgepodge of deleted scenes inserted back in? I guess I don't, and it's not like I necessarily spend that much time dwelling on the subject, but it seems like de rigueur for the format to have the director offer comments on why the new footage was put back in. Then again, maybe that's just my conspiratorial mindset coming through once again.
With or without the never-before-seen scenes (a couple of which are just extended versions), it's still a great example of the resurgence of the gritty English crime flick, intercut with Ritchie strong use of crazy camera angles, dark humor and naturally gun-toting bloodletting. There's a new opening sequence, featuring an extreme closeup of streetwise Eddie (Nick Moran) explaining the rules of the game, so to speak, and that one moment does put a fresh spin on things before jumping into the comically deadly daisy chain of events as four friends try to one up an assorted group of criminal types after a botched attempt at winning a high-stakes card game. There's a large sum of money that is owed, and fingers will be removed if it isn't paid back soon.
Ritchie more or less rejiggered the vibe of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels with Snatch, a film with a bigger budget and many of the same actors, including another standout thug role for Vinnie Jones. But it's this 1998 debut, where Ritchie shows off his as-yet-recreated flair for lowlife criminal creativity that makes this so impressive and entertaining, and considering his successful approach has been copied by countless caper films gives this what I call the Tarantino Syndrome. That's a distinctive visual storytelling style that gets cloned and borrowed by other filmmakers in an effort to try and capture the very same energy, often with results that never match the original.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: Originally shot on 16mm, the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer can't really ever become anything reference quality. It carries an intentionally muted color palette—very dirty and dull—so even the sporadic significant burst of color doesn't particularly leap off the screen. Fleshtones also look a little off, not quite natural but consistent throughout. Edges still look very soft throughout, and details do get a little hazy, yet some of the new footage, such as the opening shot, look noticeably sharper, with stronger flesh coloring.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The single audio choice is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, and it appears to be the same, or at the very least amazingly similar to the one found on the original Polygram edition. And that means what's here is workable, just apparently not remastered. Yes, those challenging English accents are generally understandable (knowing what they're talking about at times is another story), and the presentation keeps things mostly upfront; rears carry the occasional odd burst of gunfire. And that leads me to my biggest nitpick, which is that the sound quality of the frequent gunfire just never really attains that deep whump it needed.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Inside Man, Scarface: Platinum Edition, Magnum P.I., The A-Team, Knight Rider, Waist Deep
Extras Review: A rather disappointing set of extras for this "director's cut" edition, one that lacks material found on the previous Polygram edition. Conspicuously absent here are the UK and US theatrical trailers and the ever important Cockney dictionary. Instead, all that's here is One Smoking Camera (11m:10s), a look at storyboarding, planning and a few key special effects, but at just 11 minutes it's not much. Lock, Stock and Two F**king Barrels (01m:56s) is even less essential, basically just a string of scenes featuring the f-word. The big bummer is that there's no indication of what the new footage is, where it is, why it's there. Nothing.
A few trailers—though none for the feature—round things out, with the disc cut into 18 chapters. Subtitle options are English, French or Spanish.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsIf you already own the Polygram edition, this isn't necessarily a required purchase. There's just under 13 minutes of new material and not much in the way of extras, so it isn't like Universal has gone overboard to make this an attractive double-dip.
Anyone who missed out on that now out-of-print release, however, should jump on this, because as a coarse and quirky English crime caper, there's a whole lot to like about the way Guy Ritchie stages the black comedy and mayhem.
The film is highly recommended, just not necessarily this edition.
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