'Snatch' was released in 2000 and was written and directed by Guy Ritchie. At the time of this movies conception, Ritchie was riding high on the wave of success that his first full length feature release, 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels', brought for all involved. It was heralded as the emergence of a new breed of Brit gangster flick and was, in my opinion, a very impressive feature. Hooking up with Madonna, and with his name now on the "hot directors" list, the whole world waited with baited breath to see if the next Ritchie movie would live up to the hype. So, with many calling Ritchie the new British Tarantino and with Madonna spreading the word of the up and coming 'Snatch' project, it was an exciting time for both Ritchie and cinemagoers alike.
The cast, although featuring some of Richie's faves from his first feature outing (Jason Statham and Alan Ford), also has the benefit of the mighty Brad Pitt, who puts on the performance of a lifetime; an addition which I suspect the aforementioned Miss Ciccone (and her contacts) played some part in. We've also got some more Hollywood heavyweights thrown into the mix, perhaps to add appeal to American audiences - Benicio Del Toro (Franky Four Fingers), Rade Serbedzija (Boris the Blade) and Dennis Farina (Uncle Avy). Aside from these big names there are lots of interesting and amusing secondary characters, such as Doug The Head (the late, great Mike Reid), Sol (Lennie James), Vinny (Robbie Gee) and Tyrone (Ade). Vinny Jones (Bullet Tooth Tony) also makes an appearance, finally getting to play a “primary” character perfectly suited to his "football hooligan" persona. Undoubtedly this cast is a powerhouse of acting talent but it's also a very unusual collection of diverse thespians; perfect to play the myriad strong characters which Richie has woven into this release.
The plot features an illegal boxing promoter, Turkish, and his “partner”, Tommy, who inadvertently get mixed up with the local underground crime lord, Bricktop. In a comical turn of events, the two start out with plans to purchase a new caravan from a group of gypsies but end up begging their bare-knuckle boxing champion, Mickey, to fight for them to pay back their debt to Bricktop, offering him a brand new caravan as payment! Meanwhile, Avy and Doug, two savvy Orthodox Jew diamond dealers, battle to gain control of a whopping 86 karat diamond, which is in the possession of Franky Four Fingers (so named because he makes bad bets he cannot keep); a man not to be trusted with such a responsibility. There's also a group of ruthless Russians, led by a hard-as-nails ex-KGB agent named Boris, who hire a couple of witless pawn shop operatives to steal the stone from Franky. Needless to say, as this is a Richie flick, they all cross paths on more than one occasion as the entire piece descends into comical chaos.
I've always thought that this movie was a far superior effort to 'Lock, Stock'. True, both are very similar and the manner in which all the complicated sub stories culminate in a delightful, caper-like climax is almost identical for both. But, as I have often thought, if I had seen 'Snatch' first, I would always have regarded 'Lock, Stock, as a poor imitation. As this is not the case, I personally view 'Snatch' almost like a superior "Hollywood" remake of Ritchie's first stellar effort. The excitement and sometimes shocking violence of his first feature is replicated and built upon to perfection, which is backed up with an intelligent, multi-layered storyline. There are plenty of action segments, with gunfights and fistfights cropping up at just the right time to break up the relentless onslaught of witty dialogue and plot transitions. The big fight scene at the movie's close deserves a mention here and really is a wonderful set piece to close out the movie.
Without question Richie takes pride in his technique when making movies but at times it can seem a little over the top. In saying that, I really enjoy the stylistic manner in which 'Snatch' is presented, which is primarily attributable to the director's never static approach to filmmaking. In a movie such as this, which can only be truly categorised as a crime caper, the pacing that this technique affords really suits the source material and keeps things hurtling along at a cracking pace. With a run time of 102 minutes, Ritchie certainly does squeeze in a huge amount of content. This is largely due to the clever manner in which Richie pauses certain scenes midway through, as a complimentary voiceover (usually provided by Turkish) explains exactly what's going on in a couple of seconds. There's also plenty of character introduction/plot explanation by way of micro-flashbacks, such as the quick scene which conveys how Tony got his bullet tooth! This allows the twelve (or so) primary characters, who are all involved in multiple sub-plots, to effortlessly glide in and out of the feature without complicating matters. In conjunction with this very innovative manner of introducing the characters, Ritchie also injects plenty of energy and flair via barrel roles, split-screens, interesting use of props (such as the wonderful monitor introduction scene) and plenty of quick editing. This leads to a very exciting, involving and fast paced end product.
Brad Pitt is utterly fantastic playing the itinerant Mickey. If you thought that he was "de-beautified" for 'Fight Club' (which was, in my opinion, his second best performance to date), you will be utterly shocked at how he looks here. His hair is greasy and straggly and he is sporting a semi-beard; dressed in mismatched plaid trousers, a disgustingly dirty faux fur overcoat and a porkpie hat. Witness him taking a dump behind one of the caravans in his halting site abode and pulling up his undergarments without even wiping and you'd be hard pushed to see the "Most Beautiful Man in Hollywood". Still though, I'm sure that plenty of females started swooning when, during the fight scenes, he reveals a torso even more ripped than Tyler Durden's (in 'Fight Club'). His pikey accent is absolutely spot on and a continuous source of hilarity. Being from Ireland, I'm quite familiar with this type of dialect (I jest of course) and I, for one, could almost understand every word which he speaks! His accent is so convincing, however, that special "pikey subtitles" were included on the DVD/BD release so that our American cousins could understand his lines! Jason Statham is equally as strong in his lead role as Turkish and for such an inexperienced actor (I believe Statham was part-time modeling for FCUK before he starred in 'Lock, Stock', although he reportedly was also a part-time dodger dealer) he really pulls off a convincing job playing the gangster(-esque) illegal fight promoter/trainer. Del Toro fares well, in a sort of understated, yet effortless cool performance, playing Franky “I've got a fucking gambling problem” Four Fingers. Farina is hilarious as the manic Avi, who has one of my favourite lines in the movie - I won't spoil it for you but my second fave also comes from his character:
“Yes, London. You know; fish, chips, cup 'o tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary fucking Poppins......LONDON”
Simply priceless! Jones also turns out a strong performance, even if he is more than typecast as Bullet Tooth Tony, but he certainly pulls it off with only a few minor tinges of ham. Reid is perfect in his role as Doug the Head, as is Alan Ford as Bricktop (I love his tremendous “Nemesis” speech). All of the other less prominent characters are equally as impressive and deliver their lines with conviction and perfect comic timing. The dialogue is as slick as they come and would give 'Pulp Fiction' a run for its money in the “uber-cool” department. The quantity of incredibly witty one liners/put downs is astonishing, with absolutely tons of quotable dialogue included in the relatively short run time.
All of the characters involved, aside from Micky, are cockney gangsters prone to intelligent philosophical musings as well as hilarious one liners. The banter between Tommy (“Zee Germans”) and Turkish in particular is priceless. Sol, Vince and Tyrone are equally as amusing, especially the car parking scene (again I would love to quote this but it would really be a spoiler if you haven't seen it before). This is one of the main reasons why I love this movie so much, the humour. It comes thick and fast, in an almost continual stream of witticisms and crass put-downs; in a word hilarious. Then throw Mickey into the mix, with his almost unintelligible pikey ramblings, which is backed up by an equally indistinguishable choral pikey repetition every time someone doesn't understand him and you've got some comedy gold. The taut and clever plot is interspersed with some beautiful sarcasm and black comedy and the whole package is topped off with some very impressive performances and sophisticated urbane direction from Richie. I haven't watched this movie in several years but I've always considered it to be one of my favourites and the pleasure I took in reminding myself of this fact on Blu-ray has just reaffirmed my opinion. As mentioned, many see this as a rehash of old ideas but for me, this is one of the finest movies in its genre and I would have no hesitation in recommending it to everyone.
“In the quiet words of the Virgin Mary.........come again"
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