What does the film Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Ritchie 1998) tell us about Male Identity, in Britain in the 1990s.
The film Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (LSaTSB) (1998) is about how ‘Gangsters’ live their lives and their whereabouts and the lifestyle that they live as ‘Gangsters’ This is shown by the way in which the actors behave towards follow gangsters and women. This shows a sense of male identity than the men have in this film. They are stereotypically seen as ‘Lads’. This is shown early on in the film by when two of the main characters are being chased by the police. This shows a sense of gang culture at the start and it shows you how the role of the males is going to be played and shown throughout the film.
A professor of European Cinema (‘Mary Wood’) says that this film ‘reflects the moment of ‘new laddism’ representing an aggressive reaction to feminism, anxieties over male roles and the glorification of consumer culture where the right shoes and fashionable clothes indicate their status’. This comment can relate to the views that are stated by Laura Mulvey because she believes that men look at women in a certain way and the women in films are only seen as objects. This is shown in the film by the respect that the men give to the women. This is apparent during the film when one of the more ‘thuggish gangsters’ hits a woman in the face. Mulvey also believes that women are only used in films to be seen as objects “the male gaze”. She says that women play the passive role in films. This is clearly shown in LSaTSB, as there are only three women in the whole of the film. And they play very little roles… They are:
1. The Pole Dancer. Even though the role of this woman is to dance in the background naked she supports Mulvey’s argument and is definitely used for being seen as used as an object.
2. The Card Dealer. As she is the card dealer and only the card dealer in the film she gives off a sense of power in the film (sense of authority). This is different to the Male Gaze by Mulvey but I feel that the film needs a role plaid by some one who has power over the gangsters… (played by the card dealer). This is also shown as the dealer is an older woman, which means that the men would have to show respect for the woman not on only because she is female but because she is older than everybody else in that scene.
3. The Passed Out Woman on the Couch. This woman does not have a name, she plays a passive role. She has no real role meaning she has no significance in the film until later on when she wakes up, fires a gun then gets knocked out. This shows not only the ruthlessness and ‘thugness’ of one of the gangsters but it can also relate to what type of people these gangsters are by a fully-grown man punching a woman.
As these roles are played by thuggish, gangster like actors that have previously been in films playing similar roles, such as Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham. This is a good way to prove to the audience that the film is going to be gangster related before they even view the trailer as they know that with these actors they will play the thuggish role that they are good at playing.
LSaTSB is a ‘gangster light’ film according to Steve Chibnall. This means that the film is unrealistic, seen more as a comedy but with certain aspects to make you feel (as an audience) that the film is based on true events that happen on daily basis in England during the 90s period. But as it is a gangster light film, the plot is farfetched with over (approximately) 6 different plots, and the dark side to the film… the drugs, the violence, the language is trying to be moved aside for the funny, cheeky moments in the film that allows you to see past all the violence etc. and see the funny side.
Lock Stock also shows us how the men in this film have no true feelings or emotions for anyone or anything, going back to Mary Wood; this shows a sense of ‘Laddism’ which shows that the identity of a male gangster founding England at this time period would have a lack of emotion and no care for anything, but there is no one like this in real life. This point seems to be apparent throughout the film until the end when it is made apparent the love/soft side that Vinnie Jones has for his son. Even though he portrays his love for his son in a very violent way, it is made apparent that there are some feelings in an ‘English gangster’. This shows how the film gives off a true sense of male identity as the men in this film are all very similar in the sense of their lifestyles and they all show some type of emotion at least once during the film.
I believe that the director of this film (Guy Ritchie) made sure that his actors showed no true emotion in the scenes of this film. I believe he did this to try and portray the fact that the men were not moved or upset in anyway by lying, cheating, stealing and killing. This is completely different to that of other films being produced in the 90s, as these films were mainly ‘chick flicks’ with loved up men who would do anything for a woman but this film was one of the first of its kind and is unique in the sense of showing no emotion to women at all.
LSaTSB has been a true highlight of the 1990s film industry and it has caused much uproar and has given film critics fuel to argue about how life in England is being portrayed in these films. Such as Steve Chibnall, he believes that ‘there is evidence of a connection between the construction of post-feminist versions of masculinity in lifestyle magazines like Loaded and FHM preoccupied with representations of a time and a setting in which the rules of male association were clear, and the penalties for their infraction draconian’. I believe that this means that the media in such magazines as FHM and Loaded they use women as objects for men to look at, (the male gaze). The magazines also refer to male behavior and attitudes before women had to be treated as equals and men had to be careful about what they did and said. But Steve Chibnall has tried to tell us about how he thinks men acted in the 1990s. This is shown in the film about how men have frustrations and fixations to do with women, cars, fashion etc. and all these things are given in the ‘Lad Magazines’.
Once again this goes back to Laura Mulvey’s views on women being used as objects. These male magazines go along with the motto ‘For men who should know better’. This magazine is for men who want to be seen as a stereotypical ‘lad’. The reason for mentioning this as it can be linked with the film in a sense of women being used as objects allowing men to do what they like when they around women, not caring about the effects or causes of their consequences… such as the pole dancer and the scene where Vinnie Jones murders a fellow gangster with the car door. The relationship between the two is mainly to do with the ‘male gaze in films’ and the way women are used as objects in magazines.
As LSaTSB is a gangster light film, this means that there is no background to the depth of the characters. By this I mean that there is nothing telling us (the audience) how or why these people became to live in the way that they do. The sense of identity is shown by the way the gangsters act around their fellow gangsters and towards other people. By this I mean that they would need to have a certain amount of power, street credit to be able to have respect among fellow friends and other villains. There are other factors that are stereotypically seen as a gangster in this film such as the characters showing no outward display of emotion, having no fear over anything or anyone, violent, protective and stylish. The identity that these villains have can be seen in all these factors right down to their dress sense. The way a gangster wears his clothes and what he wears is important factors to consider such as they all seem to wear darkly colored clothes with some sort of overcoat or a leather jacket. This is an image that they are seen to follow and shows a sense of being ‘hard’ and it continues to be shown through to the way in which they walk, have their hairstyles and to what car they drive.
Even though this film tells us about how the life of British men live their lives but however this is not true. This is clear and obvious that it is not true as the way these ‘gangsters’ live their lives is not normal and it is purely done for entertainment purposes. Some of the factors may be based around real events but it is highly unlikely that English men lived these lives in the 1990s. This can relate to male identity in the 1990s, as men would want to be seen like the actors in the film… to be feared and well known for being a ‘Lad’. This film may have changed peoples perspectives over things and may change their beliefs and make men in the 1990s want to be known as a thug among the public such as Vinnie Jones played. This is bad as it shows how weak some peoples personalities can be, and how easily the can be persuaded by the media. This rolls on to Theodor Adornos views on the media. He believed that the power that the media possessed over the population was enormous and very damaging. His views can relate to the point I made previously. The film could have a damaging effect on people; making them believe that they can get away with the crimes they commit in the film and behave similar to the actors in the film but suffer from much larger consequences.