Snatch [Review]

Snatch: Gangster follies is entertaining, but trite.

January 19, 2001
Directed by:
Guy Ritchie

Jason Statham, Benicio Del Toro, Brad Pitt

Written by:
Guy Ritchie

Running time:
104 minutes

January 19th, 2001

T he present holder of the UK-Cool crown, previously held by Trainspotting's Danny Boyle, is undoubtedly British director Guy Ritchie. His directing debut, 1998's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, captured audience's attention on both sides of the big pond with its ultra-hip mix of gangsters, guns, snarling Cockney accents and black humour.

His latest effort, the eagerly awaited Snatch, arrives in theatres this week. Naughty connotation of the title aside, Ritchie's sophomore effort is an entertaining piece of irony-laden black comedy. Unfortunately, it's hampered by an overwhelming sense of deja-vu and Ritchie's hipper-than-thou directorial style.

A summary of this film's complex plot would be very long (and probably try anyone's patience) but a quick overview would include underground boxing, a gigantic diamond, snarling gangsters with hungry pigs, and lots of confusing accents. It's a gangster movie for the catchphrase generation: Glibfellas, anyone?

Snatch could be summed up as "confusion, mayhem, and gangsters: snappy dialogue ensues", and if that sounds suspiciously like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels's plot, you'd be right. Snatch is basically an enhanced (reheated?) version of Ritchie's first film, with a few big name American actors (Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina and Brad Pitt) and a larger budget thrown in.

Ex-Footballer Vinnie Jones is Bullet Tooth Tony in Snatch
Ex-Soccer Player Vinnie Jones is Bullet Tooth Tony in Snatch
Ritchie is a master of the quick jolt and Snatch is teeming with them, whether he's squeezing a transatlantic flight into five giddy jump-cuts, or skewing the camera into a head-tilting angle during a frantic, shuddering boxing match. Everything here is cartoonish and extreme, from the kinetic camera work to the Dick Tracy-esque character names ("Franky Four Fingers", "Bullet Tooth Tony", "Boris the Blade", "One Punch Mickey O'Neil"); it's like a woozy testosterone burlesque, with irony added for extra bite.

There are definitely some great moments here, from Brad Pitt's hilariously indecipherable accent ("Kuasehfgaiurgh!"), ex-footballer Vinnie Jone' Bullet Tooth Tony, and a great scene where Uncle Avi (Dennis Farina) is asked by a customs official, "Anything to declare?"

His response: "Yeah - don't go to Britain".

A good film has to fulfill at least one of four cinematic virtues: It's got to be entertaining, intellectually provoking, illustrates the "great human drama" in a moving or soulful way, or be visually interesting.

Snatch definitely fulfills the first requirement - it's often entertaining, hilarious and surprising. The biggest problem is that Ritchie is basically remaking his first film with a bigger budget, and it's hard to tell if he's capable of anything else besides Wise-Cracking Men-with-Guns. He also seems to be trying very hard to show just how hip he really is, and after a while, a lot of the film starts to feel like hipster posing.

At any rate, Snatch is an amusing diversion that would probably make a good beer, chips and late night slumming kind of film. It will be interesting to see if Guy Ritchie can pull anything else out of his cinematic hat, or if he's merely a one-song singer.

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