Genre & Narrative in Lock Stock

The first 10 minutes screen time of Ritchie’s ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ allows the introduction of the characters and a description of their role without the gangster hierarchy and the narrative thus it operates quite conventionally as an opening in terms of narrative. ‘Bacon’ has just set up his suitcase in a high street and we now see in plot time that he’s enticing buyers and selling his evidently stolen goods. We do not know the exact location of the scene but it seems to be 90’s London from the character’s appearance and the fact he has a south London accent, a conventional cockney sort of voice.

We can predict that what the character is doing is illegal from the seedy location, a derelict looking road with garages behind them and from the fact he’s selling from a table and suitcase in the middle of the street with no other stalls or shops are around, also the goods are being sold from a suitcase, the suitcase is an icon within crime movies representing an illegal exchange and therefore suggesting for the audience the idea that nothing about the events here is legitimate or legal.

An idea that is reinforced when uniformed police men begin chasing the character.A low non diegetic rhythmic musical beat begins when the character was shouting and selling and as the chase starts the musical soundtrack enters properly and is parallel to the pace of the chase, giving it the excitement necessary.

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When the chase begins we discover that another significant character is involved in the sequence as he announces the arrival of the police to his counterpart and also begins to run. The unknown, until now, characters are then introduced through a non-diegetic narrator voice over. This male voice over is conventional of a crime movie and is also used in similar films such as ‘football factory’. The voice over played Eddie and Bacon are running has the same accent as the characters and sounds like a gruff, dominant person as if they would be high in the criminal hierarchy but he sounds wise and mature and so we as an audience trust his judgement and comments on what is happening in the story. The use of a voice over in this particular film is conventional narrative device because of the genre of the film.The voice over provides a back story for the two characters running, Eddie and Bacon, who have been edited into slow motion. The characters come out of slow motion and continue running down and dirty dark alley, where there’s graffiti on the walls etc, and run out of the shot. This sort of location, urban and seedy, as well as being dark is conventional for the genre and as from our previous experience of crime movies we know the criminals know these areas better than the police. We assume they’ve managed to escape as we see the staircase and the screen cuts to black and the title of the film appears letter by letter as if a type writer were writing it. It has the look of a crime report which could be seen as an iconic symbol for the audience that they are watching a crime film.The film then cuts to a shop location, like a corner shop or a newsagent, a familiar setting for the audience. Here we are able to confirm that the two characters we first saw did not get caught by the police because they enter the shop to talk to a new pair of characters that this scene’s narrative purpose is to introduce. The characters are all dressed quite well, almost business like, which seems odd in a corner shop, it makes them stand out and causes the audience to expect something different. The corner shop seems average but then the characters go into a stock room that looks dark and full of boxes of things you would not find in a corner shop which makes us as an audience suspect that they are stolen or dodgy.The voice over then establishes more information about the new characters Nick the Greek and Tom, as Tom is the seller and the voice over offers more information about him we assume Nick is not a main character, but tom is. We also seem realise that we are being introduced to a ‘group’ of friends that work together in these dodgy dealings and assume an ensemble cast where we will be offered a variety of characters with whom we can relate and enjoy the development of. The character Tom takes a large amount of money out of an oven an action which immediately causes us to think there is crime involved, because in our life experience and cultural knowledge nobody keeps �25,000 in their oven.As the money is taken out of the oven the camera cuts to a POV from inside the oven looking out at the characters and Tom then closes the oven leaving the audience in darkness, before a shot from inside the bottom of a water filled cooking pot with a new character staring down into the water before throwing carrots into it and closing the lid and cuts us to black. A shot from outside of the pot allows us to establish fully that the scene is in a kitchen. This editing style of short duration shots that in some quirky way end up being a cut from black has created the feeling that we are closing on the introduction of one character in order to open to a new one and we realise a pattern is emerging that each different scene is a different location and introduces a new character, or character group. The two characters we have already been introduced to in previous scenes then come into the kitchen, confirming our idea that everyone we are currently being introduced to is part of a group within the predicted ensemble cast and that this is a group of south London ‘lads’ all involved in illegal activities, and all linked. At this stage there is a level of enigma of the film as information is restricted for the audience.We see the characters collect another �25,000 from the new kitchen based chef character ‘Soap’, but we do not yet know why they are collecting this money, or what they plan to do with it. We can only assume it will be something illegal given the locations, the screen action so far and our knowledge that this is a British crime movie from director Guy Ritchie. The voice over provides a back story for this new character and as he does the shot of this character freezes in close up. This freeze frame links in with the use of slow motion earlier as these editing techniques, combined with the voice over and on screen intertitles/text, are conventional devices for character intro in crime movies for example again we see use of freeze frames in ‘ Football Factory’ which is a typical technique used by directors such as Danny Boyle.We are also establishing here that all the characters so far seem to be pretty normal, with jobs and everyday lives, but that they have underlying criminal tendencies. They are still ‘dodgy’ because of dealing with stolen goods and committing petty crimes but they don’t appear dangerous or threatening like most conventional gangster movie male protagonists. This creates a feeling for the audience that they can trust and relate to these characters more than they normally would in a film of this genre. Their place in the criminal world could be seen as amateur and unprofessional or simply that they live their double lives well, that they have these two contrasting worlds their everyday lives and their criminal lives. I think the way the characters are presented depicts them as quite low down in the criminal hierarchy, because they have average lives and their criminal activity would normally be just an insignificant petty everyday crimes but that with this money they are collecting they are dealing with something more out of the ordinary and on a higher level than they usually do. It also helps to create a character range of the not so bad criminals and the more hard core ones as the film leads the group to meeting similar criminals much like in ‘Pulp Fiction’.The presentation of these characters also suggests that the genre of the movie is a crime/comedy hybrid, shots mentioned before were seemingly quirky. The film also has a sub-genre of a British comedy crime caper like ‘Ealing’ comedies only a modern version. We get a suggestion of this sort of sub-genre through the non-conventional approach in a crime movie of our main characters being ordinary and not threatening. Film gangsters are usually materialistic, street-smart, immoral, meglo-maniacal, and self-destructive which our characters do not appear to be. We are able to like the characters more because they are like this which would suggest a hybrid of comedy and crime in the film. From the amount of money they are collecting we predict that the plot will show them moving onto something bigger, perhaps a more serious crime and through this combined with their non threatening characterisation and ordinariness we also predict that they will be unsuccessful as they are moving out of their league, out of their position in the conventional gangster hierarchy. As the scene in the kitchen finishes the character eddy, who seems to be the most important character as he was introduced first and has been in every scene since, says”Looks like it’s time to make that call to Harry then”This generates both anticipation and enigma here as our information is restricted because we do not know who Harry is, or what his role in the plot will be yet but we can expect it will have something to do with the money, and predict that he is higher in status within the gangster hierarchy and therefore more dangerous, based on our prior predictions concerning their collecting of the money.The kitchen scene cuts to provide a view of yet another location, the outside of a building with a neon sign reading “Harry’s sex shop” on the front, and we immediately assume, due to this seedy location, that we are being introduced to the as yet unknown Harry and that this Harry character is going to be sleazy, dodgy and a far more serious gangster than our ordinary seeming protagonists. This increases our concern for them but provides the audience satisfaction as our character and plot predictions are being proved to be correct. Cutting to the inside of the sex shop which has low key, dim lighting with visible coloured neon lights blurred in the background emphasises the tackiness and sleaziness of the location and further confirms our characterisation predictions for Harry. We see paraphernalia on the desk such as a spanking paddle that Harry is holding and motioning with as he speaks which suggests violence or menacing. It is like a behind the scenes view of who runs the sex shop industry, a ‘real’ criminal. A man who looks important is sitting behind a desk and the phone begins to ring as the voice over narration provides, yet again, a more detailed introduction of the character and their role. He picks up the phone and begins to speak and we of course assume we know who is on the other end of the phone, this assumption is immediately confirmed when the shot cuts to the group of lads we know as our main characters. We are immediately satisfied and gain pleasure as an audience as our predictions for the characters and plot continue to be confirmed.After the phone conversation is finished Harry looks across his desks and speaks to someone we as yet have not seen. There is a non-diegetic ‘whoosh’ noise and the camera whips across to a large, bulky man and we imagine the ‘whoosh’ noise may have been there to emphasise his size and to show he is a scary, intimidating character. The ‘whoosh’ builds a moment of suspense as we wait to see what this character will look like. The voice over then introduces this character by providing a back story that accounts for his nickname ‘the Baptist’ and cuts to a flashback shot of him dunking someone’s head in water in order to gain money and information.It is evident he works for Harry as someone who ‘teaches people a lesson’ for not paying him and his physical appearance and the ‘ whoosh’ sound which indicated serious threat as far as we the audience were concerned. Reinforced when we realise he is Harry’s henchman. For an important, high up member of the gangster/criminal hierarchy in this genre of movie it is a convention for them to have some kind of henchman/men to do their bidding for them when people have wronged them or owe them money.In conclusion the locations for this film fit the genre very well, the seedy locations such as where Bacon is selling out of a suitcase and Harry’s sex shop. The characters are a mixture of very conventional and not so conventional and the locations and characters combined make us predict a complex, intense plot in which time and space are going to be very important. The construction of the four protagonists and their personalities, them being seemingly ordinary, everyday men plus the contrast of Harry’s character lead us to predict the conventional crime genre theme of conflict between the these two sort of characters as well having a comedy side to the story because of the four protagonists not being real ‘hard’ criminals but more the ‘loveable rogues’ sort of characters.

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Genre & Narrative in Lock Stock. (2019, Jun 20). Retrieved from

Genre & Narrative in Lock Stock
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